10 Strategies to Get Rid of Your Child’s Smartphone Addiction
The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” revealed the dark side of technology and social media straight from insiders at Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies. The documentary explored how these tech giants use algorithms and design techniques to keep their users constantly engaged. Infinite scrolling, push notifications, personalised recommendations are just some of the tactics used to manipulate behaviour. So comes as no surprise that many, including young people, are becoming increasingly addicted to smartphones and social media.
Indeed, the massive impact that these technologies have on our lives is undeniable.
As parents, we want our children to enjoy and take advantage of the innovations that will help them grow and develop. At the same time, we need to protect them from risks brought about by the digital world. Parents need to constantly check-in to see if technology is bringing more harm than good in a child’s life. Social withdrawal, restlessness, or irritability when unable to use the device are just some signs to watch out for in your child. (link to the internal article: “Is Your Child Addicted to Mobile Devices?”)
Ways to Overcome Smartphone Addiction
Here are a few creative strategies that will get your child to finally put down that smartphone:
- constantly see them glued to their phones and constantly checking emails. Set an example by putting aside all your gadgets for a few hours every day. Think of it as a chance to rest, recharge, and have your own digital detox.
- Carve out time to enjoy physical activities with your children, such as taking a walk, baking cookies, or giving the dog a bath. Bonding will not only veer them away from their phones but will also be an opportunity to check in with them and strengthen the lines of communication. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re having fun, whether in the real world or the digital one, so make sure to show your child the wonders that only a sensory experience can bring.
- Shake up your child’s routine. Often, parents use screen time as a reward after studying or when the child has time on their hands. When playing with mobile devices become part of the schedule, habits begin to form around these gadgets. So instead, introduce other activities for your child to do in his or her free time. Who knows, this may also lead to the discovery of new skills and interests. Painting or playing the piano, perhaps?
- Set a limit even on educational games or videos. Parents may think that just because an app is for learning, it is safe to let the child spend hours and hours on it. The same goes for educational videos. Keep in mind that this may be fueling your child’s addiction to mobile devices without you even knowing it.
- Set rules with your child. Openly communicate with them about what you want to achieve (i.e. limit smartphone use) and allow them to voice out their concerns, make suggestions, and voluntarily buy into those rules. Allowing the child to be involved in the process will help empower them to make the right decisions for themselves.
- No phones during meals. Make your child understand that there are times and spaces that are considered sacred. Spend mealtimes asking about how their day went or what they think the family should do that weekend. Seeing the family converse and have fun together will make them appreciate real-life interactions.
- Unplug an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown the link between smartphone use before bedtime and poor sleep quality. Apart from physical discomforts, such as eyestrain and headaches, that come from overusing mobile devices, sleep disruptions can also be a problem, which may lead to fatigue and lack of focus. Hence, make it a part of your child’s bedtime routine to put away mobile phones and gadgets and store it perhaps in a drawer outside the child’s room.
- Don’t allow your child to play with the smartphone just because he or she is “bored.” If your child still has to ask your permission to use the device, avoid giving in just because the child has nothing to do. Encourage him or her to read a book or play a board game, any activity that will keep them from reaching for the phone to be entertained because this might form into a habit.
- Disable notifications when possible. Apps are designed to keep us coming back for more by appealing to our FOMO or fear of missing out. So even as we conscientiously put our phones down, sooner or later we will hear an alert saying our friend just posted a new video or another player beat our high score. Unless you consciously disable some of these notifications, your child will be subject to the same distractions which will make it virtually impossible for them to ignore their phone.
- Be open and talk to your child about the dangers of smartphone addiction. Discuss with your child the signs or behaviours associated with this kind of addiction and point out if you’re seeing the same in him or her. Trust that your child will listen to you and understand what’s going on.
Smartphones are a fixture of modern life and it will be extremely difficult to prevent your child from using one entirely. However, with the help of parents, there are ways that children can have a healthy relationship with technology. Smartphones and other mobile devices can be a powerful tools for learning and making enriching social interactions. It’s about finding the right balance and taking things in moderation in order to avoid the risks that come with disruptive technologies.