If you asked any teen if they could live without their smartphone for more than 24 hours, most would gasp in horror at the idea of being disconnected from their social networks. Prying an iPhone from a teenage would be considered parental abuse by their peers. Teen cell phone over-usage has become such a serious problem that the American Psychiatric Association has called it “Internet Use Disorder”. So how does a parent prevent their teenager from developing a smartphone addiction?
Don’t Give a Child a Smartphone
Kids are demanding iPhone and android devices from their parents at ages as early as 6. Not wanting to disappoint their children, parents who often have a few old spare phones laying around the house are happy to comply. These young kids are getting online and learning how to use these smartphones and developing social networks with anyone they can. Without a filter or understanding of what exactly is safe usage, these kids become attached to their devices. As they age, the phone becomes a part of their identity.
Cell phones provide safety, giving parents the ability to reach their child at any moment. They can call to find out if they made off the school bus ok, or kids can notify parents when they are going to spend time at a friend’s house. These are very practical reasons to give your child a phone. It just does not have to be a smartphone. Any feature phone with data disabled is perfectly capable of letting your kid let you know where they are and what they are up to.
Enable Parental Controls
Once your child becomes a teen, it is nearly impossible to deny them a smartphone. With every other kid enjoying access to iPhones and androids, you probably don’t want your child to feel left out. Once you make the decision to give your teen a smartphone, everything changes. Teen’s brains are still developing. They are not quite ready to make the best choices. Adding restrictions to your child’s phone may be a wise idea. Here are a few ideas for restricting usage:
- Use built-in parental controls to restrict access to inappropriate content.
- Make sure you have the phone password and log in frequently to check on your child’s usage
- Lock down your home wi-fi with parental controls and content restrictions
- Monitor your teen’s social network usage
- Teach your kids how to safely use social networking
- Connect your social accounts with theirs to see what they are sharing on their phone
Warning Signs of Teen Cell Phone Addiction
Is your teen glued to their phone? Can you have a conversation with your child without their face buried in a screen? Watch for these signs that your teen may have a problem:
- difficult withdrawal when they are not allowed to use their cellphone
- weight loss / non-attention to food
- insomnia / awake at night
- isolation from friends and family
- Lack of verbal communication with parents
- Withdrawal to private spaces within the house for long periods of time
As a parent, if you are not watching for these signs, your teen’s cell phone addiction could turn much worse. Many teens have found themselves so buried in use they have developed behavioral problems. Their social skills fall and they become disconnected from normal interactions. This can lead to self-medication to replace their lack of physical attention. Drugs, alcohol and risky behavior are all potential consequences.
If your teen falls into a cycle of abusive behavior, there are numerous treatment choices. When taking teen’s phones away only makes the problem worse, it may be time to look up Diamond Ranch Academy. Their live-in treatment facility gives teens an outlet to express themselves. Free from smartphones, teens can grow and learn what they have been missing while buried behind a screen. It is hard to break the cycle of addiction without some form of stimulus. Phones stimulate a teen’s brain and without a replacement activity, the problem may only get worse. Diamond Ranch Academy can help.
Prevention goes a long way. Take the time to monitor your teen’s phone usage. Talk to them about responsible smartphone use and provide activities that take them away from wi-fi networks and cell signals. Camping, movies and any other family activities will give them a welcome distraction and time for parents to connect with their teens.