6 Ways to help your child balance their smartphone use

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Published on

01.18.2022

There are plenty of studies that highlight the problem of kids and teens over-usage of technology, and more specifically, smartphones. For example, this study by Pew Research Center highlights that most teens know they spend too much time on their devices. 

Beyond just wasting time, the real dangers of spending too much time using smartphones and tablets can be much more detrimental. 

What are the effects of smartphones on kids?

Teens who spend three hours per day on a smart device increase their risk of suicide by more than 30 percent, according to the Functional Nuerology Center. Additionally, suicide rates among teen girls jumped by 65% between 2010 and 2015, which correlates to the rise and mass adoption of smartphone use. 

But in an increasingly online world, some smart device usage is becoming expected from kids and teens. So how do you, as a parent, balance the need for digital literacy with the obvious downsides of full access to smartphones? 

This article will help you with insights and advice on how to approach this with your kids, tweens and teens.

1. Start with your device usage

As a parent, you’re always leading by example. Whether you’re making positive choices or not, your children are taking cues from your behavior. If you want your kids to make changes in their device usage, start with making the change yourself. 

If you want devices off at 10 pm, you should prepare to abide by the same rule. If all devices, including your own, are put away on time, it becomes much easier for your kids to follow your lead. 

If you’re exhibiting healthy doses of screen time, your kids are more likely to have a healthy relationship with their phones. 

2. Set screen-free times

The American Psychological Association, recommends: “Keep mealtimes, drive times, and bedtimes tech-free, allowing families to chat about their day or sit quietly and daydream, which can be creative, calming and synthesizing for children.”

By setting screen-free times, it automatically helps balance the screen time, as you and your kids will, over time, instinctively put devices away, making way for actual human connections with you and your kids. 

3. Apply consistent screen time allowances

By allowing kids more structured screen time with set limits lowers the possibility of your kids developing unhealthy relationships with their devices. There are a lot of recommendations on how much time should be allotted for screen time, but Jeannie Galindo, supervisor of instructional technology for the Manatee County School District in Florida, explains that it depends on the activity: “I recommend no more than two hours for a high school student per sitting if the gaming is the focus of the interaction,” Galindo mentions for this PBS.org article. “However, if the student is using the device as a productivity tool that time would obviously be greater.”

4. Offer constructive uses of screen time

As Galindo recommends, if your kid wants to learn a new skill while using their device, screen time can take on a new meaning. There are plenty of positive experiences your child can experience online. 

Here are a few sites that are built for kids to learn new skills that will prepare them for living in the online world:

Outschool is a paid online education platform that offers a variety of courses from creative writing and art to learning Latin. 

CodaKid is a paid online learning platform that teaches kids software coding, that takes them through the fundamentals of coding, to building fully-functioning apps and games.

iRobot Education is made from the makers of the Roomba and offers well-curated STEM courses for kids six and up, which are generally free. 

Scratch was developed and run by MIT, and is completely free. Your kid can learn software and game development at their own pace, with easy-to-understand courses and a kid-friendly development environment. 

Scholastic: Learning at Home is a completely free resource for kids, parents, and teachers, which makes it easy for kids to stay sharp, even when schooling from home during the school shutdowns over the past two years. 

boy in wheelchair smiling with tablet device

5. Opt for internet-free phones or utilize parental controls

Because of the all-access nature of smartphones and devices, it’s important to limit what kids and teens have access to. The two main options for parents are phones with parental controls, and internet-free phones. 

Parental controls are becoming more prevalent on most smartphones, and will ideally give you the tools necessary to monitor your kid’s online activities. This gives you the ability to intervene if, and when kids and teens are attempting to access restricted content. 

The idea is to put the control in the parents hands, so it’s up to you to set up the controls in a way the offers a positive experience for your child. 

One thing to keep in mind with parental controls is that if your kids are tech-savvy enough, they may be able to bypass parental controls. Paradoxically, if the parent is not as tech-savvy, the parental controls can feel daunting and confusing.

Internet-free phones take the guesswork out of the parental controlled phones, and make them virtually impossible for your kid to bypass, as the operating systems for internet-free devices have no internet browser available. 

The internet-free direction allows instant peace of mind for most parents, as it offers solid protection without the need to apply any settings. 

6. Talk with your child

While the above advice can help you and your child navigate the digital world together, nothing beats open communication, and setting expectations. 

By talking with your child about your expectations of them with their device, and openly talking about the dangers, you can set your child up to have a positive relationship with their technology. 


Screen time balance with Gabb Wireless: the best cell phone for kids

You can kickstart your child’s positive relationship with their device by starting them with Gabb. We take a tech-in-steps approach to technology for kids, which allows your kid to grow into each device over time. 
Whether your kid has an eye for a watch or phone, none of our devices can connect to the internet, and are free of addictive games and social media.

Check out Gabb devices here.

Gabb Staff Writer

More than a cellular company—Gabb Wireless is a movement to connect kids to what matters most with safe technology solutions.

Find more by Gabb Staff Writer

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