Setting cellphone limits for our kids is easy and hard at the same time.
We want to give our kids some independence but at the same time, they have under-developed brains and need guidance and help setting boundaries.
So how do we strike the balance in this day and age, especially when cellphones are an integral part of our everyday lives?
I want to share 3 EASY steps that will help you, set limits on cell phones that you can incorporate anywhere, anytime.
Step 1 -Assess your real concerns around too much screen time. You must have concerns about excessive phone time or you wouldn’t be reading this. Take time to assess your own worries so you can discuss them with your child. They might include concerns around properly resting the brain, brain development, down time to be creative and think, fostering strong face-to- face relationships with people, wanting to spend time together away from phones connecting and talking, or getting uninterrupted sleep at night so the brain can recharge. Once you have a firm grasp on why you believe cellphone limits should be set, it will be easier for you to enforce.
Step 2- Include your child in the conversation. Once you understand your own concerns, help your child understand your concerns about too much time on the phone. Have a real conversation with them. Explain your concerns and your fears around excessive cellphone use. Be open and honest, you are creating an atmosphere of cooperation and solutions. Then brainstorm with them for ideas or input on how screen time can be limited. Talk openly about ideas that you want to try and gain their buy-in. Set a trial period, like 2 weeks or 30 days, and then check in together to assess the progress or success of the idea. If it isn’t working, tweak as needed and try again, while keeping the dialogue open. When kids understand the concerns, the method and the goal, they are more likely to buy-in and feel cooperative.
Step 3 -Set limits and be very, very consistent! Ok this is the hard part. To make this work, once you set limits by creating rules around the phone, you must be very consistent. Consistency is the key to success. For example, let’s say you are frustrated that your daughter and her friends are texting each other all night. You are concerned because your daughter isn’t getting consistent sleep and you know her brains needs uninterrupted rest for an extended period of time to release the toxins that build up in the brain during the day (You can add this to your list of concerns if it wasn’t already). And you know this because you are checking your daughter’s phone regularly.
So, you two talk about this and you do your best to help her understand your concerns. You talk about the need for the brain to rest so she can do her best in school, develop into an emotionally intelligent woman, do her best at soccer and be a good friend. You really help her understand the impact of not getting uninterrupted rest. The two of you decide that during school nights, she will check her phone in with you for the night at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekends. You both feel good about the rule and agree to try it for 30 days and then assess the outcome.
The success of this will rest in your consistency. Remember that enforcing this new rule is up to you as the parent. Not letting it slide for one night, forgetting, or turning a blind eye because she has a friend over for a sleepover will show your daughter that you are committed to this, that it matters and that you’re investing in not only the goal but her well-being.
Even when she gets upset, yells, begs or negotiates, stay the course. Be the leader. Know that this is for her own good. And stay consistent. Let the new habit take effect with your consistency. Let the benefit rise to the top by giving the brain enough days to form the new habit.