Smartphone Addiction: 7 Tips to Protect Your Tween or Teen

Is your teen “hooked” on his/her phone? Is he/she unable to go even one day without posting on social media?

Have you felt that your child is spending too much time on the internet and his/her phone and paying less attention to what is going on in real life?

Clearly, today’s teenagers interact with the world through their phones, i.e. their social media accounts and their inboxes.

Though many parents are unaware, smartphone addiction is a real and growing issue which is considered similar to drug and game addiction.

Therefore, parents must realize that this is quite the serious concern. Believe it or not, a survey done back in 2016 by Common Sense Media showed that 50 percent of teens interviewed felt addicted to their phones, whereas 78 percent of them reported checking their phones at least every hour.

Our youngsters today can easily become addicted to their smartphones for various reasons, including fear of solitude and the illusion of social inclusion offered by phones, social pressure emphasizing the importance of phones, the dopamine secretions enjoyed when receiving likes and notifications, and because phones are considered essential for one’s self-expression.

Unfortunately, when parents fail to pay the needed attention to how often their children use their phones or what they do on social media, the risk of serious mental and physical health problems increases.

According to Kidslox’s creators (an application that helps parents keep their children safe by limiting their usage of screen time), children who are addicted to their smartphones are more prone to sleep disorders, obesity, anxiousness, depression, and problems with learning and relationships.

With this in mind, parents should not rush into giving their children a smartphone from early on. However, when you feel that it is the right time for them to have a phone, make sure you take the right approach.

To help you navigate through teen usage of smartphones and minimize your child’s risk of becoming addicted, read our top 7 useful tips.

7 Tips to Protect Your Teen from Smartphone Addiction

1. Set limits from early on
Though they can be considered mini-adults, teens are still growing up and self-control has not yet become their strong suit.

This is why as parents we need to assist them in learning how best to manage the usage of screen time.

In the words of Michael Ungar, Ph.D. and a renowned published writer, children are constantly reminding us that they value and need structure, routines, and reasonable consequences.

Hence, before your teen is allowed to use a phone, make sure you decide together how much he/she will be using the phone. How to bring the best decision?

Take into account their age, relative maturity and other lifestyle factors you consider important. And, once you set the ground rules, don’t forget about clearly stating the consequences too.

One possible consequence is no access at all to their phone for a day or two. By reducing the time for phone usage, you are not just protecting them from the negative impact of overuse- you are also helping them have more time to enjoy other interesting and beneficial activities like sports, reading, walking, interactive games, painting, etc.

Moreover, remember to have regular and open talks about technology and its use and effects so that your child can understand why there are rules in the first place.

This will also help you instill values that will continue even when they reach an age when you can no longer control their screen time usage.

2.  Lead by example
A common struggle for today’s parents of teens is setting up healthy limits for phone usage when they are also struggling with overuse. When talking about phone addiction, it’s vital to take into account that teens are not the only age group we should be worried about, but adults too.

The negative habits that we as adults have can easily become our children’s if we know that they often pick up on most behaviors from us.

Hence, if we turn to our phones for every little thing, whether it’s to check the weather or to read a recipe, we are teaching them that phones are an indispensable part of our lives and therefore, theirs.

So, if we want our children to use their phones less and spend more time doing other things, we need to manage our use too. Being intentional about the attitude is a must if we want our children to copy our routines.

Begin your detoxification from your smartphone with concrete steps like avoiding screens before bed, having a specific charging area in the room, using a real alarm clock, not checking your phone while you are with other people – leave it out of your reach, etc. Be brave enough to sever the umbilical cord between you and your phone.

3. Establish productive habits
When trying to break your child’s smartphone overuse, the goal is not to make them give up their phone entirely. Rather, your focus should be on helping them introduce more productive, happier, and positive habits that will remain with them as they grow.

To achieve this, you need to be encouraging and supportive of your teen and spend more time together. Show that life can be interesting without having to photograph everything and share it on Facebook or Instagram immediately.

Lead by example and always emphasize face-to-face over virtual communication.

Why is this important? Because smartphones today have so many apps and functions that are particularly attractive to growing children and can easily “hook them up”,

parents need to do their best to steer them in the right direction. Keep them busy with other activities and make smartphones “serve” your child, not your child “serve” the phone.

Point out that even though technology significantly eases our lives and we can all benefit from it, it must not be something that our health and happiness depend on.

4. Talk about online vs. in-person communication
From early on, children need to be taught that human beings are social creatures and that we crave in-person contact, not virtual relationships. Hence, we are not meant to be in isolation or to rely solely on technology to communicate.

Even though today’s interaction through texts, emails, and messages has been exponentially growing, it doesn’t have the same impact on our emotional well-being.