I'm going to warn you - this isn't going to be the article you think it will be. We've spoken with tens of thousands of kids and they sure are tired of the stereotypes and assumptions that come with being a kid with a device. So, here are 5 things you can do to help your kid with their device:
Before you tell them to put their device down, ask what they're doing.
Kids use their devices for a lot of reasons. They might be talking to a friend.. Maybe organizing their day tomorrow. They could be watching a video to learn something cool. Or they might just be bored. But we as parents assume the last, and ignore all the other stuff.
Give them a two minute warning instead. A simple "it's time to wrap it up" will breed far better results than forcing them to ghost a friend in the middle of a convo!
Don't ground them from their device unless they've done something incredibly serious.
It's the parenting go-to. "That's it. No more phone!" But what many parents fail to realize is how extreme this punishment is. When we were kids, we had a ghetto blaster, a television, a library, an alarm clock, cash, paper agendas, video game consoles, computers, and telephones. For our kids, these are all the same thing. Their device.
Sit down with your kid and make a list of everything you each do with your phones. First, you'll be astounded at how integral it has become to your life, and theirs. Next, talk together about which aspects of device use could be restricted as a punishment.
We also highly recommend taking away their charger, rather than their phone. Require a screen shot on demand of the battery life, to be sure they aren't surreptitiously charging it through a friend or sibling. This way, they'll only use the device for the most important stuff, and you have an effective consequence.
Learn how they're using their device to navigate their world.
Don't learn from Google, or other parents. Learn from your kid! Many kids will use their device to help manage anxiety, often through simple games. Some kids will use them to manage the stresses of being in school - a classroom environment all day is tough for introverted, anxious, or shy kids! Teens might use their phone to find out who's going to be at a party, so they know if it's a place they want to be.
Model good device etiquette yourself.
We hold our kids to a standard of etiquette and use that we don't seem to hold ourselves to. Of the 40,000 kids we've spoken with, almost all have told us they have a parent who is always on their device. All of them say that their parent often doesn't hear what they're saying because they're involved in their phone. Their TikTok (which is their television, along with YouTube) screen time is the same as your Greys Anatomy binge or WWII documentary screen time. And please stop texting and driving. It scares your kids.
Stand up for them.
When kids and their use of social media is brought up at the next family gathering, stick up for your kids. Make sure that they, and you, aren't on your device inappropriately. But if your kid needs a brain break, a barrier, a chance to chill, support them! And if the convo turns negative about "kids these days" talk about the cool things they've learned, and maybe taught you. Take pictures with them. Maybe encourage everyone to join in creating a TikTok.
This is a different world. Our kids DO have devices. They DO have social media. They ARE impacted by technology all around them. You may believe the way you grew up was better, but this is the way they're growing up. Our kids need us to stop listening to other adults about how they're using social media, and start listening to them.
Need help starting a social media conversation with your kids? Take our Parenting and Social Media course. It will change your perspective and give you the tools you need to navigate this part of parenthood.