*This article was updated slightly going into 2023 to keep up with the changes in technology!
Screen addiction wasn’t something your parents had to worry about when you were a kid. Though you argued for more time spent watching TV or playing your Nintendo, you tempered your time indoors with time playing outside. Things are a lot different now. Always near to hand, the iPhone is a constant in your kids’ lives. Like so many of us, they’re addicted to checking in with their feeds and group chats whenever there’s a lull in IRL activities. (That’s In Real Life, for you clueless parents). Except, when your kids use their phones constantly, new studies suggest tie significant health consequences to their digital habits. A growing portion of the scientific community links diminishing mental, emotional, and physical health in youths to excessive screen time. Let’s go over the possible risks and solutions to excessive screen time.
Too much screen time has side effects
Filled to the brim with apps, an iPhone can take on any use. It’s an entertainment system, a gaming console, a communication device, a learning tool, and much more. On the surface, it could only seem like a positive influence in your children’s lives. But once you delve deeper, it’s not as cut and dry.
Recent research suggests excessive screen time poses a risk to your children’s mental and physical health. The University of Bristol found those children (aged 10 and under) who spent more than two hours a day in front of a screen experienced:
- Emotional difficulties
- Hyperactivity and/or inattention
- Problems with their friends and peer group
As screen time increased and physical activity decreased, researchers found these problems worsened.
Other studies saw similar negative effects in teenagers. One theorized excessive screen time as a suicide risk factor, as those teens who spent more than five hours on a device are 71 percent more likely to commit suicide. These studies point the finger at social media accounts as the reason why so many teens have poor mental health today they cause older children to compare themselves to others.
This research, alongside cases of cyberbullying, cause many parents to rethink how they allow their kids to use cell phones.
You aren’t the only concerned parent
Back in 2018, some of Apple’s biggest shareholders sent a letter to the Cupertino-based company. The letter, which you can read in its entirety here, voiced a concern shared by many parents around the world. Jana Partners and the California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CSTRS) — collectively owning roughly $2 billion in Apple shares — urged Apple to address the mounting public health crisis of youth phone addition. They said the tech company has a responsibility to limit access to their phones. They also asked Apple to study the impact of excessive phone use on youth’s mental well-being.
How to win the argument
With science on your side, the obvious solution to the problem of screen time is to limit the amount of time your kids use their phones. For any parent who has already had this conversation, you know this is easier said than done. When your kids are used to a certain amount of time with their phones, any restriction will be met with anger. It’s going to be a challenge to get them on board, but the following tips can help you convince them to cut back on their screen time.
Remember to limit, not eliminate: The problem isn’t the phone itself. As mentioned above, it’s a great tool for your kids that lets them explore the world. It only becomes a problem when they spend too much time on it. Though you may be tempted to keep their phone under lock and key, don’t. Studies show that teens who don’t use their phones are less happy than those who do.
When you bring up the subject, clarify that you don’t want to take their phone away from them. Make sure they know you just want to limit the time they spend on it.
Set household rules that apply to everyone: If you continue using your phone without restriction after limiting your screen time, you might experience some pushback from your kids. They may resent you or call you a hypocrite. You can try avoiding these arguments by making it a family challenge to limit everyone’s screen time.
Sit down one day and establish the rules to this challenge, making sure everyone knows when they can use their phones and when they can’t. Pick specific times — like during dinner or an hour before bed — as phone blackouts. Make it a competition to see who can go the longest without checking their notifications. You’ll have a greater chance of winning them over when you turn it into a game.
Reward good behavior: Don’t think yourself above bribes. They can be a great incentive when your kids are still challenging this new smartphone regime. Talk to them to see what it would take. When they start listing things like a pony, the iPhone X, or something equally expensive, be ready with your own affordable options.
A customized iPhone decal is a great option as your first reward. Though inexpensive, these decals (or skins) offer your kids a way to express themselves in unique ways. When it comes to selection, no one does it like a brand. These vinyl skin creators have an exclusive partnership with 3M vinyl that allows them to offer premium designs your kids won’t find anywhere else. Your kids can choose from special dragon skins or marble or carbon fiber iPhone skins. And when they use the online build-a-skin feature, they can play around with customized combinations of any color or texture.
Take advantage of parental controls and other sneaky tools: If they’re still not respecting your new rules, you’ll have to fight dirty. Every iPhone comes equipped with parental controls (the Cupertino-based company calls them Restrictions) that let you lock certain apps, hide explicit content, and block websites.
Your provider should also offer ways you can limit their data, allowing you to disable apps and prevent in-app purchases. Depending on your provider, you may even be able to lock apps after they’ve used them for a certain length of time.
Some parents take matters into their own hands. They change the password to their house’s Wi-Fi every day and will only share it once their kids complete their chores. It’s a handy way of ensuring your kids help out around the house. If you choose to go down this route, make sure you’ve put limits on their data to make sure they don’t go over their limit in retaliation. An easier option may be to simply install a parental control app on their device, but this can get to be annoying if you commonly share tablets with your children.
How can you get your kids to buy into the idea of limiting their screen time?
While kids these days may love spending time indoors watching movies or scrolling through their social media feeds, parents should encourage them to find other activities to enjoy. Setting limits on how much kids can use screens is necessary if you want to ensure that your kids are able to develop properly and stay healthy. By discussing the advantages of their other hobbies and activities and coming up with a plan together, kids can be convinced of the value of limiting their screen time. With regular outdoor activities as well as quality online experiences, kids can have fun without relying too heavily on screen time.
The bottom line
Cell phones are an inevitability in 2023 but their negative side effects aren’t. Speak with your children and work out a way to limit their screen time that works for the whole family. Making it a family challenge, employing parental controls, and rewarding good behavior are just three ways you can increase your success. But don’t stop there. Brainstorm your own ideas that can make this transition a little easier and share them with the class.