It’s difficult to imagine a world without mobile devices and constant connectivity. No matter what you need to do, your smartphone is close by to assist you as needed, get you through your day, and provide a welcome distraction. As it turns out your children feel the same way!
Make no mistake: mobile devices are increasingly necessary as your child moves into their teenage years. A recent survey by Harris Interactive found that almost half of all teenagers think their social life would diminish significantly without a smartphone. And that’s to say nothing of the benefits that being able to reach your child at all times can provide to parents.
But that’s not the entire story. Mobile devices bring distractions, some of them can prevent your children from getting ahead and even threaten their lives. No less than 78 percent of teenagers check their phone at least once per hour. How can you help your son or daughter stay focused in the age of mobile distraction?
The Blessing and Curse of Mobile Connectivity
It’s easy to think of the many benefits that mobile devices can provide to teenagers. Used correctly, these phones can help your children stay in touch with their friends, take notes during class, schedule important dates and meetings, and more.
Another important reason for this type of connectivity is security. More than 90 percent of both parents and teenagers agree that with a smartphone available, children feel safer.
And yet, these benefits can sometimes gloss over the dangers of irresponsible mobile usage for children and teenagers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of distracted driving leading to a car accident. In reality, more than 1.6 million car crashes occur every year because of phone usage.
Vehicular accidents may be the scariest possibility, but it’s far from the only example of mobile distraction. While teenagers can theoretically take advantage of the productivity features on a smartphone in class, they rarely do so. Instead, they browse the internet, engage on social media, and do anything but actually pay attention to the teacher.
The same is true during homework time. A 2013 article by USA Today made a surprising discovery: your children actually know about this common distraction.
Melissa Malik, 17, said cellphone distractions sometimes cause her to take twice as long to complete a homework assignment. “Something that used to take me half an hour now takes an hour because text messages and other things can distract you,” said Malik, who is a senior at Cherry Hill West.
And it doesn’t end there. With a mobile device in hand, your children and teenagers will become less likely to actually engage in quality family time. They even prefer to chat with their friends digitally, rather than hanging out in person. Experts now worry that these type of isolationist activities can have a significant, negative impact on your child’s ability to develop relationship-building skills later in life.
Mobile distractions don’t end when it’s bedtime, either. Usage right before bed has been shown to negatively impact the ability to sleep, and that effect is exaggerated among children and teenagers. Exposure to the bright digital screen will result in difficulties falling and staying asleep, which can lead to health problems down the road.
What Parents Can do to Limit Mobile Distractions
The benefits are undeniable. Unfortunately, so are the disadvantages of the major role that mobile devices now play in your children’s’ lives. How do you find a happy medium that allows you to walk the fine line between positive effects and danger? Here are some tips that we think will get you started in that effort.
First things first: because most teenagers are aware of their frequent mobile usage, it makes sense to simply engage in a serious talk on the topic if you see your child struggling with this problem. Treat them as you would like to be treated, taking their points seriously and offering honest feedback.
Redirect Distractive Energy
We all know how easy it is to get distracted. That energy doesn’t just go away when you take away the mobile device. Instead, try to redirect it in more positive ways. What if instead of hanging on Snapchat, they read an engaging eBook? How about playing an educational game rather than the newest Castle Clash? Using a trustworthy parental control software that allows you to block certain apps during these times but allows your teen to still use their device for other activities like listening to their favorite music can be a nice compromise.
Provide a Positive Example
Make no mistake: mobile distractions are not limited to teenagers. We all have either experienced or witnessed situations in which adults just cannot seem to disconnect from their screen. As a parent, that’s the worst possible situation. Instead, try to practice what you preach by setting an example of how to disconnect when necessary.
Set Some Ground Rules
Rules matter. For instance, smartphones should not appear during dinner, homework, or scheduled family time. Make sure everyone in the house – even older children and adults – adheres to these rules. To make this easier, consider using a service that hides all your kids’ apps or locks their screens during these important times.
Limit Screentime When Necessary
Limit screentime and set a regular schedule that gives your child time each day away from their mobile devices so that they have time to explore other activities and interests.
It is always easier to manage your children’s screentime, content and apps on mobile devices when you use a trustworthy parental control. A service like Netsanity allows parents to instill balance and safety with mobile devices for their children, making sure that when it’s time to eat, sleep, drive, or study, their mobile device is not a distraction.