We need to talk about teens and smartphones

Tuesday, 07 November 2017

On a flight for weekend away from the kids - we read the latest Time magazine (do you guys remember magazines? - it was great!) - it included an article on Teenagers and Smartphone use.  It was entitled "We need to talk about Kids and Smartphones". It was an interesting read, and it tells a story about this healthy teenage girl - with no reason to feel depression or anxiety, fell into this problem through over use of Social media and use of her smartphone.  It goes to discuss that recently in America there has been unprecedented increases in adolescent depression and suicide.  This closely follows the same pattern that New Zealand is experiencing.

As parents to two teenagers this is an eye-opener and to be honest we probably are not the best role models - as we are constantly on our phones - checking out all the latest notifications, as our phones and iPads  constantly seek attention - and we are all to happy to follow along.

We recognise that we needed to change how we behave, have an open discussion with the kids and set some ground rules for us ALL to follow.

Here are some of changes we made - its a bit early to discuss if they are successful of not - but i would love to hear your experiences so far - some tips for our community.  Because I believe that this is a major health issue in our community and if we can make a difference in even one teenager it will be worth having this discussion.

FIRST - we called a family meeting - to discuss how we use our phones.  This was an excellent time as Amy had got her new iphone X and we were all doing the classic family hand me down of phones (to clarify - Amy gets the latest - and i get her hand me down!) We made it clear that the purpose of this meeting was that there was evidence that inappropriate Phone use and Social media use can lead to depression and suicide and that as Parents we are setting these rules because we care - NOT as a punishment.  As with most things with kids - if we focus on the motivation - the WHY we are making a change), they seem to take it a little better.  Everytime we got the start of that classic teenager eye-roll  (you all know what i mean...) we would interrupt them with 'Dont forget why we are doing this.."

SECOND - we collaborated together to set these rules and the punishment if the rules were broken - It was important that we all had the chance to set and then agree on these rules.  Important to us was that there was to be no devices allowed in their bedrooms - we had to set up new charging stations in our living room.  We also made sure mornings are more productive - no internet use until they had done all their chores and were ready to leave to school.  Another rule - at any stage, at anytime we can ask to have their devices and any hesitation or delay would not be tolerated.  

THIRD - we drew up a contract and had us all sign the contract.  Breaking of a rule would lead to an immediate 3 day suspension of the phone and if you broke the rule again you lost the phone.


It was easier than i thought to have this talk.  (usually for any major talk with the kids Amy handles it...). Maybe as ours were 12 and 14 and a little younger?

A week in and everyone is fine.  The sun still rose in the morning.  We sit around the table at breakfast and everyone is great.  We talk , we smile, we have fun, family banter - its great!

One thing ive done on my phone is turn off all notifications and set times for me to check my email and messages - it works fine!  Again the sun still rose in the morning!  

I hope me sharing this with you all will help trigger a similar conversation in your home. I think its been a really positive experience for our family - and will keep you updated to how we are all going.  

Andrew  :)


Oh, and here are another a couple of articles if you are interested - 

Atlantic - Have Smartphones destroyed a generation?

New York Times - Hooked on our Smartphones?