Dear Annie: My husband and I have two teenage children, and both of us work out of the home. We try hard to be engaged in our children’s lives and be aware of everything they’re doing. As working parents, it’s not easy, but we try hard.
As our children have become teenagers, we’ve noticed them becoming increasingly more addicted to their phones. We’ve set all types of guard rails around screen time, acceptable apps and taking their phones into their bedrooms. They listened much better when they first received their phones. Lately, they’ve been exploiting every opportunity to abuse the rules.
My husband and I have tried to crack down, but we’re just not able to constantly be alert. We know it’s important to crack down, so I wanted to reach out and see if you have any advice. Thank you. – Confused About Cellphones
Dear Cellphones: First, I applaud you for your focus on this issue. Since you both work, it makes sense for your kids to have cellphones so you can communicate with them as needed. Screen time, however, can be a serious issue that impacts social development, communication skills, schoolwork and many other important areas. Other issues including cyberbullying can arise as well.
You and your husband should begin by staying firm on your rules for cellphone use. Also, there should be no cellphones in their bedrooms, particularly at night, or at the dining table. In fact, phones should be silenced or turned off during meals. Put parental controls and locks on apps when possible, and maintain the right to conduct random searches of their call log, email and apps. Have your children sign a contract that enforces escalating punishment, such as a 24-hour period without their phone for the first infraction, 48 hours for the second, 72 hours for the third, etc.
You may do all this in a positive way. Let them know that you are going to give them independence to use their phones but hold them accountable to using them in a mature and thoughtful way. Have a conversation about cyberbullying, phone etiquette and the dangers of posting or sending messages without understanding long-term implications. Encourage your children to communicate openly with you about any issues they may have or anything that is making them uncomfortable. Good luck!
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