Managing Your Teen's Smartphone

Adolescent and Couples Therapist, Yshai Boussi, L.P.C., joined us with helpful tips on how to help us manage our teenagers' use of thier smartphones. 

You'll find more great tips from Yshai on his parenting blog.

"Teens between age 13 and 17 are among the fastest adopters of smartphones, according to a survey released Monday by Nielsen. In July, 58 percent of teens surveyed said they owned a smartphone, up from 36 percent in July 2011."

1. Understand your options with parental controls. Particularly with younger kids, it’s important that you have a sense of what they’re doing on their phones. Don’t do this behind their back, be upfront about it. Let them know that as they show responsibility with their phone, you’ll back off. Look into what parental control and monitoring options your carrier provides as well as the options with the specific phone your teen has. Remind your teen that it’s not about controlling them, it’s about the fact that owning a smartphone is a huge responsibility and there are a lot of things that can go wrong.

2. Create technology free time each day and keep it off at night. Many teens get that it may not be good for them to be glued to their phone all the time, the problem is it’s often too hard to put it down and not constantly check it. For most teens, the benefits of constant socializing also comes with a certain level of anxiety. They typically don’t have the skills or ability to set their own boundaries so you’ll need to help them with this.

3. You’ll have to do it too. Your teen will need to see that you’re able and willing to put your phone down as well. You’ll be surprised at your teen’s compliance when they see you following through and modeling the same thing.

4. Know why your teen’s phone is so important to them. For most, it’s a lifeline to their friends and social life. For some their phone provides an important outlet for their creativity, for others its an essential coping skill that helps them manage their stress and anxiety, and others rely on it to help them with school work.

5. Make sure your teen is taking advantage of the benefits. In addition to playing games, socializing and listening to music, teens should be using apps. to help them be more organized, manage their time, and stay on top of their responsibilities. There are even apps. to help with managing their moods and building self-esteem.

6. A Smartphone doesn’t need to be an entitlement. While regular cell phones have now become entitlements and necessities for most parents and teens. Smart phones are not. They may need to be able to text but they don’t need all the cool extra’s. Smartphones and data plans are expensive. They should know how much they cost and at some point they should help pay for the extra’s.

7. Talk about and be clear about expectations. Have ongoing conversations about what you need from them and what they need from you regarding the use of their phone. For example, clarify what circumstance could lead to having their phone taken away and under what circumstances you’re ok with a text and when you’d prefer a phone call. Make sure that you get a sense of their feelings and thoughts as well. Being clear and upfront about this will save you and your teen a lot of angst later.

8. Don’t take their phone away for more than a week. More than about a week and there is no benefit to them or you. The learning that can come from a reasonable consequence is replaced with an unnecessary battle of wills (which they always win) and ends with resentment towards you. Girls in particular tend to be more heavily impacted by this consequence because they are often more dependent on their phones to stay connected. Instead, think of alternative calling plans, downgrading their phone, or creating new limits and boundaries around usage.

9. Avoid text fights. One of the biggest drawbacks of texting is the way it lends itself to impulsive, reactive and misunderstood comments. When you find yourself really frustrated with your teen, avoid getting into a back and forth with them and instead text something like, “we’ll talk about this when you get home.”

10. Form a positive phone relationship with your teen. Find positive ways to connect with each other through your phones, examples might be a shared calendar, sharing and exchanging pictures and videos. Send regular texts that are positive, fun and affirming. Some examples might be, sharing something funny or weird that happened to you, telling them how proud you are of something they accomplished, an encouraging note to hang in there, or a message saying simply, “just wanted to tell you that I love you and hope you’re having a great day”.
 

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