52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: The Family Docking Station
The following article is from national speaker Jonathan McKee, author of over 25 books, and most importantly, husband and father of three. This particular article is the second in a series of articles from his incredibly practical book, “52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid.”
“No phones in the bedroom, especially at night.”
It’s a practice countless doctors and parenting experts recommend, but I’m warning you: your kids will absolutely hate it.
It’s not a popular notion, but it’s one I absolutely believe. Teens and tweens, especially young ones, shouldn’t have their phones in their bedrooms at night. So I recommended that Mom and Dad tell their kids, “We’ll charge your photos each night in our bedroom.”
Joke with them, “It’s a free service we provide as your parents. No fees applied.”
Here’s the problem: if you didn’t start this practice when your kids were young, then expect a battle. This is just a fact that you need to accept. After years of talking to teenagers about this, I recognize this subject gets teenagers heated.
Why? They don’t know any different.
Most teens are allowed to have their phones and devices in their bedrooms. I talk with parents consistently about this, and it’s obvious to me that most of them don’t enforce boundaries in this area. Even if they have boundaries, the majority of their kids’ friends probably don’t. Additionally, if your kids have been watching the Disney Channel for years, they’ve probably gleaned that most parents are idiots and should let their kids do whatever they want.
But healthy parenting involves bonding and boundaries. Both elements are key. Boundaries can help create an arena where good bonding can exist.
Think of it like basketball. When a group of kids plays basketball, they don’t necessarily think of the rules as helpful, but if one kid decided to punch people in the face and take the ball away, then those rules would become way more necessary. In fact, the rules would actually make the game more fun.
Boundaries are necessary for life as well. They are crucial if you want to make sure phones and other technologies don’t become unhealthy distractions.
So brace yourselves. If you advise your kids to charge their phones in a family docking station in your bedroom at night, they are likely to freak out a bit. This won’t be an easy battle.
When I first talked with my kids about no phones in the bedroom at night, they rolled their eyes at me and said, “Dad, all my friends have their phones in their bedrooms!” Then their arguments become a little more strategic: “But Dad, I need it to wake me up in the morning.”
I kindly let them know about this really cool invention known as an alarm clock.
But that wasn’t enough to convince them. I had to give them more. Allow me to give you the facts so you can be equipped for this conversation:
The American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to remove televisions and computers from their children’s bedrooms. Some parents listened. Most did not.
Then everything changed. In 2012, America surpassed 50% of the population who own a smartphone. Now more than half of Americans had Internet access on their phones- both computers and televisions in one mobile device.
Smartphone penetration expanded rapidly. By 2015 more than 75% of American teens age 12-17 years owned smartphones. Now, as you read this, the majority of young people carry around a mobile device with access to TV, movies, music, social media, Google, and YouTube- all the stuff the AAP advised parents to remove from the bedroom. And the AAP didn’t amend its stance; in fact, they still recommend, “Keep the TV set and Internet-connected electronic devices out of the child’s bedroom.”
How many parents do you know who stand outside their kids’ bedrooms saying, “Please deposit your phone in this bucket”?
Do you do this?
The majority of kids have smartphones in their bedrooms all night long. And according to the most recent National Sleep Foundations report, the majority of young people leave these devices on. Sadly, those who leave their phone on, average almost an hour less sleep than those who either turn off their phones or don’t have them in their rooms.
So what’s the answer for today’s parents?
If your kids are young- listen to the AAP and set precedent early. Buy a family docking station where you charge all devices at night. Place this docking station in your bedroom so your kids are not tempted to sneak and access their devices in the middle of the night.
If your daughter is already seventeen and leaving for college in six months, it’s probably not worth the nuclear holocaust that will occur if you try to take her phone away at night, Instead, engage in a dialogue with her about her phone use. Interact with her in important and meaningful discussions. Share reports and statistics on this topic and ask her what she thinks. Help her be smarter than her smartphone.
What if your son is 14 or 15 and has already had his phone in his room for several years.? I advise you to begin engaging in discussions with him, warning him that you are considering the “family docking station” idea. Think about it and discuss it with him throughout the week. He may come to understand that all these experts value his well-being over his convenience. Don’t be afraid to lovingly enforce boundaries that protect your kids.
The family docking station is not a prison camp, and it’s not grounding your kids from their devices. This adjustment in the home is not meant to punish your kids. It is a break from technology to get much-needed rest. It’s yet another discipline that helps your kids realize they can survive without their phones by their side.
Their phones aren’t the only things that need a recharge each day. Help them take a break from entertainment media and tech each night. Taking each evening to relieve the family from technology encourages more organic interaction with each other. Over time, these practices will become the norm, and any dependence on mobile devices will be long gone. Your kids will grow to prefer that quality family time over screen time, and the family docking station will have gone from battle to healthy, habitual practice in the home.
Questions to Ponder:
- Why do you think AAP and other parenting experts advise no screen in young people’s bedrooms?
- Do your kids have computers or TVs in their bedrooms?
- Where do your kids keep their mobile devices at night? How’s that working for them?
- How will your kids respond if you decide to use a family docking station? How could you implement this with the least amount of resistance?