Dr. Amy Stark

Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker

Specializing in:
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Kids & Phones: What's a Parent to Do?

Gone are the days when parents plan an activity for their children to do in waiting rooms or in the car. When I walk into my waiting room, kids of all ages are on their cell phones or electronic devices. No one is reading or doing homework any more. If I ask in jest ‘where is your library book?’ (which I grew up taking with me to appointments) the kids tell me they never go to the library.
 

Teens frequently report texting with friends well into the night and have a loss of sleep, which does not help prepare them for school. Even more serious, teens often have relationships and friendships over texting. This does not give them the opportunity to look directly at their friend and read facial expressions...a task they need for all their future relationships.

Parents need to start putting limits on the cell phone usage in their homes. Most parents of teens know full well that when they take away their cell phone, their teens react as if their oxygen has been removed as well.

Parents in the midst of a divorce situation often do not know what to do about cell phone removal. When both parents do not agree on the rules this makes it difficult to deal with what is often addicted behavior from their child or teen. Although you can entertain a discussion with your ex about this problem, you cannot dictate what happens in their home. You can control things in your own, however.

 

The problem is everywhere.  Recently I was eating dinner in a local restaurant and a family was sitting at a table. All of them were on devices. No one was talking or communicating. This being the case, perhaps you can start by monitoring your own use. Are you able to set the phone down and walk away? Can you get through dinner without texting or reading texts?

 

Start by setting limits.  No cell phones during dinner. No cell phone usage in the bedroom. All cell phones in their chargers by 9 for teens and earlier for your younger kids. No cell phone usage during homework time.  When you are in the car, everyone should shut off their phone and talk about the day. This is a huge opportunity to catch up on the day while you have a captive audience.  Do some family fun game nights on board games that do not include electronics so you can see their faces and laugh and talk while you play.

 

Our cell phones are a wonderful tool...they should not be the only way we communicate with our friends.  Make sure you are demonstrating other ways to connect and that you give those other ways value.

 

* Disclaimer:
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.

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