Well ... let’s be honest. Unless you resort to burying your teen's phone or stuffing it in the trash, it’s doubtful your teen will ever part ways with it. Our kids are too far gone; they are inlove. Their iPods and phones have become extensions of themselves, like an extra limb. It’s annoying, but welcome to today’s world.
Many of us adults really like and rely on our phones, too. Only, our business always seems more urgent and grown-up than our kids’ games and text conversations. Even when it’s probably not.
At a recent volleyball match, I observed the girls who were rotated out of the game. Even though it was church sponsored and not a school or competitive match, the girls who went out made a mad dash for their phones. I sneakily watched these girls breathlessly scroll down their social media pages. They were playing a volleyball game among friends. But the game and presence of friends wasn’t enough to capture their attention.
There are some ways that we can minimize the gadget habit. Helping our teens break free, now and then, from their phones is important. It’s healthy to put them away sometimes; the phone doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your teen’s hand or pocket. There are appropriate times to take a break.
The dinner table
Sitting around a table filled with yummy foods, clinking dishes and the conversation of your loved ones is special. In artist Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, “Freedom From Want,” an eager family watches Grandma carefully place the turkey on the lovely dining room table. In this sweet depiction of a traditional mealtime, are the family members hunched over their electronic gadgets? Nope. They are looking at each other and Grandma’s turkey. They are connecting.
We can make our mealtimes free from buzzing and ringing by banning phones and iPods at the table. The texts can wait. Put the distractions away and enjoy your family and your food.
Some parents feel that they need a way to communicate with their kids throughout the day. Even though most schools ban even the sight of a phone during class time, it makes parents feel more secure knowing they can reach their kids in case of an emergency.
Even though the school office has a phone, which many parents conveniently forget, parents like the thought of a phone sitting snugly in their child’s pocket or backpack.
Why do kids insist on taking a phone to school? Because everyone else does, and because their parents allow it. My older kids carry their phones each day. It’s totally unnecessary, but I have caved in.
Kids don’t really need to take their phones to school. Unless you have a unique situation in which you need to communicate, they’re an unnecessary distraction.
How can kids get truly restful, uninterrupted sleep with a noisy gadget by their side? It’s fun to exchange texts with friends. But kids receive a text and, whoa! You'd think your country's president is on the line. They feel an urgency to answer immediately. Their sleep is needlessly interrupted.
Teens can turn in their phones to their parents at the end of the day. This gives them time alone to unwind, reflect, pray and fall asleep without distractions.
Countless other situations or events
Many of us have been in situations where we try to engage someone in conversation, only to be snubbed by a phone. My daughter has tried to hold conversations with friends who can’t look away from their phones. It’s made her feel stupid as she stands around ignored. So, now she carries her gadget with her. It’s like a security blanket.
We can teach our kids that there is a time and place for phones. It’s rude to text while talking to a friend. At special events like a movie, concert, play or church, or when babysitting, working any job or providing service for someone, playing on a phone is probably inappropriate. Phones don’t mix with driving, either.
Be the parent. Whether you pay for your child’s monthly phone plan or not, you are in charge. When you take the phone away, explain that it’s not a punishment. It’s an encouragement to walk away from social media for a while to do other things, unencumbered. Play basketball, the piano, knit, read a book, build a model car, cook, clean or do homework – without buzzes, beeps or rings.