Facebook addiction. Constant texting. Sneaking Candy Crush. Oversharing. No, it’s not your kids – it’s YOU. When it comes to managing your kids’ screen time, there’s no shortage of ideas for setting limits. But what about your needs? Recent studies (and digital detox stories) on parents’ screen habits point to device-distracted moms and dads as a growing problem for kids. It’s enough to make you want to maybe-just-maybe turn off your phone and shut down your devices. But how to actually do that? These tips can help.
1. Keep a running list of “Things to google later.” There’s a scene in the Ben Stiller movie “While We’re Young” where the childless hipsters decide against googling a word in favor of just not knowing. In fact, staying in the conversation and not checking your phone for an answer or information can lead to even more conversation. Decide what’s critical to know immediately (allergic reactions, for example) and what’s just good to know (where Legos were invented). Tell your kids to keep you accountable.
2. Tame your device. If you can’t turn it off completely, just keep it quiet. In the iPhone’s Settings section, you can turn off notifications, enable Do Not Disturb, and silence alerts in Sounds. In Phone Settings, you can set up automatic text replies. If you only need to be on alert for an email from the boss, in iOS you can create a VIP setting that notifies you of important emails. Android apps such as My VIP Calls only let through calls from specific people (such as your kid’s teacher, who may call when you’re in a meeting).
3. That goes for vibrate mode too. That feeling you get when you think you felt your phone vibrate? And you pick it up and there’s no message but you decide to check Facebook since you’re already looking at your phone? It’s called “phantom vibration mode,” and one theory is it afflicts people who rely on their phones to regulate their emotional states.
4. Get yourself some parental controls. If you google “smartphone addiction,” you’ll find lots of apps designed to monitor adults’ phone use. Consider Moment Family, Breakfree, and DinnerTime Plus, which let you designate screen-free times for your whole family.
5. Practice mindfulness. “Mindful parenting” is the latest buzz term, but why stop there? Studies show that smartphones and devices distract us even when we’re not using them. That’s a problem that calls for some serious soul-searching. To calm that “always-on” feeling, consider a meditation app such as Headspace, which applies Zen principles to daily life.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.