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Cellphone Parenting

How can I get my kids to put down their phones?

As annoying as constant texting is, it's a normal part of life for many kids. Staying in touch with friends is important to tweens and teens. When we parents were teens, we talked for hours on the phone! Now the same kind of contact happens through texting. 

However, if cell phone use is getting in the way of family time, homework, and other responsibilities, it might be time to help your kid manage his or her phone time.

Help kids find space for face-to-face conversations. Put phones down during key conversation times such as dinner or car rides.

Model the manners and behavior you want to see. Avoid texting in the car. Consider narrating your phone use ("I'm looking up directions to the party") so young kids understand the utility of the device. Make sure to excuse yourself if you have to interrupt a family moment to attend to your phone.

Charge kids' phones in your room at night. Removing their phones can give kids a needed break.

Establish consequences for problematic phone use. If your kids are having trouble putting the phone away when you ask or are engaging in other problematic phone-related behavior, consider instituting temporary time or location limits. Some wireless carriers offer parental controls that let you set daily phone-use limits, and some apps can disable your kid's phone when he or she hits a limit.

What's your strategy for getting your kids to put down their phones?

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Comments

Adult written by Mjules

So great to hear so many comments from the kids to hear their opinion, definitely makes me more understanding with my kids. I have no problem with mine texting/talking as much as they want, I love to see them socializing ( I was all about my friends at their ages!) I guess I get annoyed with the gaming and them not wanting to do anything else and I worry about their health and just want them to be more active, if let them they would play from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. I love my phone too, but I guess from a parents view I wish I could spend more time with my kids cooking together, doing things together creating memories ect and I feel like when the screen is around that is all they are interested in and it bums me out.
Teen, 14 years old written by ConditionalFollower

Here's the thing here if some of you don't get it: Limiting screen time may traumatize some kids/teens like me, personally. From my experience, I accepted breaks from my phone before. Every break from my phone, I slowly realize I have nothing FUN to do. My boredom gets worse every minute, everyone's busy. I asked my parents of anything to do and they only recommended things I don't have much interest in (no offense). So I decided to use my phone a little longer than usual and they talked to me about it. I said, "Well, to be honest you weren't able to answer my question. Everyone else is busy, I lack attention and I may go insane if these long breaks go on further." So they decided it's fair. Moral of the story? "DON'T stop your children from using their phones UNLESS YOU CAN THINK of a SUBSTITUTE activity that is FUN FOR THEM. Have them judge if you want to know if they are having any fun" Have a great day
Teen, 14 years old written by PatrickMcCoy

Nothing. Do nothing. They are socializing. If they aren't texting people you think are bad, have them block them. Other than that, they are just being social. You should be happy they're texting and aren't anti-social.
Teen, 14 years old written by The Furry

I had kind of a weird experience. When my parents limited my screen time, I refused to go anywhere until I had used it all up. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do it later. (If he’s not limited at age five, that may be a problem, though.) Instead of telling him to get off the phone, give him an opportunity to do something else and then giving him some time. (ex: “Hey Asher! When you’re done watching that video, let’s watch a movie! Can we get off in ten minutes?”
Adult written by madsg

Parents give you a phone, so you can stay in touch. Parents get upset when you're using your phone too much that it becomes a distraction for homework, sleep, chores, etc. I know the internet can be used for either good or evil. People can choose to use the internet for good, like furthering their knowledge, or using it for entertainment. Although, there's still a lot of downsides, which younger kids/teens don't understand. The internet is a BIG place and it can be scary - there's a lot of random people. On online games, kids can be so cruel to one another. Online bullying is real and valid and will have affects on self esteem. Not even just the people on the internet who can influence your children's decisions, but it's the SCREEN TIME. There are tons of studies on how screen usage impacts our brain. I have seen first hand a 12yr old constantly on their laptop, computer, and phone... ALL AT ONCE. Their parent's say they will do something about it and never do and wonder why nothing changes. Even looking back when I was twelve (2011, 2012) I would bring my laptop when I'd stay over my grandparents house. I would always be so invested in my laptop rather than my family. It's really sad looking back, I wish I had lived more in the moment. I read a comment from a 15 year old and they said that 'older people don't like technology' - It isn't about if we like it or not, it's about your health and the impact it has on you! You need breaks off the screen. Sure, I don't think parents need to have a tracking app on you at all times. I think you shouldn't be a strict parent with such severe screen time restrictions or life360. You need to build trust with your kid / parent. Parents obviously want you to have fun, but when it becomes excessive, it's time to limit it. Having set routines will be super beneficial. If you see your child looking up / doing anything inappropriate with the internet or device, or if they're just on it way too often, take it away and set rules. These things should be set in place from a young age, like when you're training a puppy. If you just let them have their device(s) all day and night, nothing will change. Not even taking a device away for one day.
Adult written by MaryMMG1

My grandson becomes very upset and angry when I ask him to put down the phone. He is 5. As much as a help phones are they are also a problem.
Adult written by Thoroughbred

Life is so different from how I grew up. Kids were outside, almost all the time. They had friends they would do things with, or talk face to face. There was no cyber bullying, no gaming addicts, no pedophiles trying to find kids on the internet. There was no internet! Having said that, yes I agree with two things that the kids have said: 1) Technology is amazing and convenient 2) Yes, many parents are hypocrites. We ALL have a problem putting our phones down! Social media, internet gaming, etc...there is constant stimulation! The problem is that it DOES affect your brain, especially someone still growing. It affects your mood too. The endorphins released are the same ones released when one is addicted to drugs or gambling. This is why we must address it, for all of us, not just kids. My son is super tech savvy, which I really appreciate when I need help on my computer or phone. It's not all bad but we just need to be careful not to get sucked in like zombies. Everything in moderation!! I think it's a great thing to get outside everyday, just take a walk or ride a bike or go fishing or play a sport. Let's just stay well rounded!! Good luck!! I do appreciate hearing the responses from the kids on here. We have smarter kids than ever before and that's a good thing :)
Kid, 9 years old

To be honest, some of this is good, some, not so much. Limiting your kids screen time isn't gonna do anything other than probably ruin your relationship with them. I actually got a cellphone when I was 7, and my parents never even thought about limiting my screen time. I have a screen lock, which can be unlocked by my fingerprint, face, or password. So I trust my parents, as they don't know my password. But some parents don't let kids have passwords, then they just feel like their parents are gonna read their messages and stuff, which is probably very private to them.
Teen, 15 years old written by Prath7

Why are phones a bad thing? Kids, the reason grown ups are so annoying about phones is because they didn’t have phones when they were teenagers. Phones hadn’t been invented yet. Now phones have been invented and ok, maybe kids do use them a lot but SO DO GROWN UPS!!! So grown ups can you stop being such hyprocrites. And for the grown ups who don’t use their phones much but tell their kids to put the phone down... STOP! Phones are cool, awesome and you can do SO MUCH WITH THEM! From games to texting to maps to research there’s just so much! We’re lucky we get this kind of awesome technology. There are many people in the world who can’t afford phones and we should be grateful that we can. I’m literally typing this on my phone! Some people just don’t respect the idea of technology which is why they annoy their kids so much. My parents (my mum especially) keep telling me that I go on the phone too much etc... SO WHAT? DOES IT LOOK LIKE I CARE??? People just don’t want the world to change... even if it’s in a good way. Like phones for example. Even other cool technology stuff like laptops. Technology is so advanced and just makes life easier. People just don’t like technology... it makes me sad. But just respect it because it’s great, so advanced and you can do so much with it. When you tell your kid to put the phone down, it’s likely that it’ll annoy them. And they are rightfully annoyed. They are just having fun! Let them have fun! Why are so many things about “ooh why can’t I get my kid to put their phone down” and other comments here talk about ridiculously specific stuff about when to use phones and where etc but honestly there’s no need for all that fuss! It will make your life harder too! You want your kids to be happy, right? SO LET THEM BE HAPPY!!!!! STOP TELLING YOUR KIDS TO PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND STOP BEING SO FUSSY ABOUT PHONES AND TECHNOLOGY!!!!! Thanks for reading
Adult written by ChillinMomma

How would you feel if you saw some really cuts girl with more developed body then some 14 year olds who is not even close to being chubby on ticktok and you decieded to fallow her. Say you followed her for quiet awhile. She got style from her hair style and sweater to her matching vans. She also every so oftern has some skinny jeans that lets say look good on her and a crop top with her cute flat belly showing doing a shakira thing or something like that...She is I'm and up on all hypehouse and knows a lot of tiktok dances and can do them well. And then as small as this world is you got to meet her. And when you for found out you have been fallowing and chrushing an 11 year old??? Some kids just want to be like and accepted by society. And it is so important to stay on top with on the popular scale? And I remember and let me clarify I AM NOT ANCIENT AND I GOT MY FIRST CELL PHONE WHEN I WAS IN 8TH GRADE AND A SMART PHONE THE MY LAST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL , that mostly the nerdy kids used the internet for positive things...and fully utilize technology to the fullest, and my kids not a need. And i can't control what she wears at her dads house or what apps she used there not can I from work....so now 15 year old, what do I do I've already talked to her about the dangers of looking older and putting yourself out there and the wrong type of attention. What's appropriate whats not. Self respect. Going behind my back with our rules at her Dads and others houses. So tell me should I stop fussing about it or not?
Kid, 12 years old

i hate it when i hear stories where parents give children phones, and then get mad at them for using it and only focusing on the negatives and then they limit their learning.
Kid, 12 years old

exactly dude, My parents understand video games, and i have no problems with them. some people need to just stop saying "phone bad" and understand the good of phones and video games.
Teen, 13 years old written by emilayyy.e.s

I wish I could write on my blooming phone but I have to write on my laptop because I cant go on anything on Safari because of restrictions :( but I agree and they're hypocrites because they raised this generation.
Teen, 15 years old written by mylife573

I think you should give your child a reason to spend time with you instead of on their phone. The internet contrary to popular belief, is actually not very judgmental which is why kids love using it. It's a free space to explore their interest and express their opinions without judgement. If you want to spend more time with your kids, become free of judgement. My parents insult my weight, my looks, my friends, my interests, etc. Then they complain that I never spend time with them. Well obviously. Also establish some basic rules that the WHOLE FAMILY has to follow. NOT JUST YOUR KID. No one can bring their phone to dinner, no one can use their phone during family game night, etc. But make sure you follow it too. Also, never say "will you please just get off your phone?" it makes your kid even more defensive and angry, and much less likely to spend time with you. Establish that you genuinely want to be with them because you love them, not just to get them off their phone.
Kid, 12 years old

I have trouble putting down my phone because I am afraid that my parents are going to look at my texts, browser history, etc. (I am not looking at nudity/pornography, drugs, or anything illeagal, I just do not want them invading my privacy) and my parents think that I am addicted, when that’s far from the truth. What should I do? They are starting to seriously limit my time on my phone/computer because they think that it’s at the point where my phone is becoming a problem. I try to explain, but they always cut me off and say that I’m addicted. This is really disappointing. What should I do?
Teen, 13 years old written by emilayyy.e.s

My parents always take my phone away from me and I get angry and when I close down a tab my mum will ask what that is and I just say a message because I know that if she finds out that my other friends from school just post pictures of themselves she will get mad and ask if I do that, even tho I don't and she knows. But after I said that she will ask why I'm lying to her and that im so secretive which I am not I just don't want her knowing.
Teen, 13 years old written by Mad Teen

Wait, why would she get mad at you for that? Like, they post inappropriate photos, or just themselves at a party, or place they went, things like that? Honestly it would be quite a dumb reason to get angry to.
Teen, 13 years old written by ten_twentynine

Tell them a 13-year-old boy from a TRUSTED website called Common Sense Media (me) told you that spying on you is absolutely wrong and with that, you have no privacy at all which gives EVEN MORE problems: (here comes something not from a 13-year-old but an ADULT) : A parent’s desire to spy might have less to do with keeping kids safe, and more to do with a burning desire to lower his or her own anxiety. Tell them also: "I am not stupid and naive as other kids. If someone asks me "Hi please give me your personal information", I WOULD NOT, BECAUSE I am not that stupid to give out personal information to some stranger. I am 12 and it is the 21st century. I do not deserve to be cut off society.
Kid, 12 years old

Here are some things you can do 1) Have established rules. Like no phones during meals, or during night time. Have them put their phone on the kitchen table at night time (before bed time) 2) Don’t tell them to put their phone all the time. It will make them mad and complain. Just leave them to their phone and then after a while (45 mins or less), distract them with another activity
Kid, 12 years old

Have some rules. Like these: - No phones during meals with family - During family nights, no phones - Phones downstairs after a certain time at night (1-2 hours before bedtime)
Adult written by itaibs21

I had a phone issue with my 5 year old child. He often took my wifes phone or his phone, played with it and wouldn't let go. Eventually, we just took his phone from him, and it made him angry and cry. So we installed the app "offThePhone", and whenever it was time to eat, or go to bed, we locked the phone with the message "time to sleep/eat". His response was great. He just put down the phone, go to us and tell us it is now his time for bed/eat. I would recommend this as it saved us alot of arguing with him, and it really helped us controlling his phone time. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.olmapps.offthephone
Kid, 12 years old

Parental control apps and other apps like these harm your childs development. phones and games are good for the brain. i play at least 2 and a half hours a day of ps4 and have all As and Bs in school, and i have no problems whatsoever such as social problems, mood, and addiction.(besides adhd and bad handwriting.)
Kid, 11 years old

5? I think that's far too young for a phone. Maybe like not give it back until he's mature and old enough for one. My opinion
Teen, 15 years old written by mylife573

Why does your 5 year old child have access to a phone in the first place? Encourage reading books and playing board games. I love game time with my parents when I was young and miss it to this day. They will learn skills and get better at what they do. Also, start a new family activity where they can join in. Maybe start teaching them how to cook, which is a great life skill, and let them find enjoyment in spending time with you.
Teen, 14 years old written by Chloe04

1) A valid reason will easily get me to put my phone away. There should be something a kid is interested in apart from their phones so get that to try to distract them. (needs to be something that requires attention for a longer period of time, say a dog). 2) Don't always tell them to put down their phones. It will get irritating and seem unreasonable to your kids after a while. They'll start to think how unfair it is that they "never get any phone time". Just leave them to it for a while, then come back in perhaps after 30 minutes 3) Set an agreed time beforehand if possible. Your kid will feel that it is fair to stop when appropriate.
Teen, 13 years old written by mxlky

I got a phone when I was 6, but it was an early model and all I could do was play games like angry birds. I have one now and only draw,animate and watch YouTube and Netflix on it (and it's a model from 2014). It really depends on how old and mature your child is. Think about what a good limit is depending on the child's age. Like for example, 2 hours. Simple rules that I've had are not at meals, not during family time and no electronics in your room and after 11pm . Simple things like that are obvious and are really easy to enforce.
Adult written by Daniel K

Obviously there's no phones at dinner. Phones and tablets charge on the kitchen counter. We also forbid phones when we are going to grandpas or a family cookout. They are left at home. Outside of that, I do look at our teen and say "Take a break. Put it down" when I've noticed he's on it for 3 hours. Or I say "Charge time is a good break time." In worst case scenarios, its "Go outside. Without the phone."
Teen, 13 years old written by plox

My parents were smart about giving phones to my brother and me. They told us what the data plan was, then said that if we went over the limit, we would have to pay the extra money!
Teen, 14 years old written by Bluebanannaball

I think that it is ridiculous for parents to be worried over this. As a kid myself, as long as I wasn't interfering with family time, it was okay. And it provides no benefit to keep phones away during the night, as it will only encourage them to sneak onto devices rather then just being on the phone for a little amount of time. My parents always would turn off the wifi, and that it a good alternative.
Teen, 15 years old written by mylife573

Thank you for being one of the only parents who has actually listened to the children on here. We really appreciate being listened to.
Parent written by Lavay M.

I've recently begun charging my 14 year old son's phone in my bedroom at night and it has made a difference in how much rest he is getting at night!
Adult written by Sydney C.

Set limits and track how much it happens. "Don't text at the dinner table" or "don't text untill your homework is done" are also good rules.
Kid, 11 years old

I don't text very much. When I got my phone me and my family were nervous that I would get very addicted, but luckily I didn't. Maybe enforce phone rules like no games because then your kid hopefully won't get as addicted to their phone in-general, that will help.
Parent written by Susan M.

During dinner, technology is off. We go around the table and everyone shares one good thing that happen that day, one bad thing that happen that day, and one wish that we have. Everyone gets to share as much or as little as they choose and gets uninterrupted time. How sad if screens messed up that opportunity! After dinner, devices can go back on, if homework is done. Google really has make life easier tho. Its now not, "go ask you mother"..."or go ask your father"...when we don't have an answer...its "go ask Google and let me know what it said". Ha, ha!! Now explain to kids what fake news is:) Times are indeed changing!
Kid, 11 years old

I bearly ever text only bc I don't like to text a lot so I recommend kids don't text all the time!
Teen, 15 years old written by EvanL115

Is it wrong that your kids are socializing with their friends? If it's during a family dinner then that's when it's a problem. My dad told me that things have changed a lot since he was a kid. He used to be allowed to walk to his friends house whenever he wanted without permission. Today, parents are always worried when kids travel. Maybe parents are busy and can't drop their kid off at their friends house. So how are they going to communicate? Texting is a great way to stay in touch with your friends and talk about life, when they aren't around.
Teen, 13 years old written by CloroxBleach

Who cares! They are just being social. Don't take their phone away from them because they are gonna get worse!!!
Kid, 12 years old

Give her more fun things to do like camp, sports, sports, etc. Since i started dance i don't text nearly as much.
Teen, 15 years old written by Teengirl

Make limits tell her she has a certain amount of time and when she goes over you will take it away. And also sign her up for more after school activities to keep her busy and off her phone.
Parent written by kate j.

I don't think force is the way to go. Using force can make your children hate you. I personally think you should just take away her charger. It sounds stupid, but as long as you make sure she doesn't charge her phone at school and she thinks she lost it, it works 100%. Instead of constantly stressing everyone including yourself by telling your daughter to stop, she will use it less and less and focus on other things. And not to point out the others or anything, but setting time limits will cause your children to get grumpy and mad. They will come to the dinner table quiet and unparticipating.
Teen, 15 years old written by nog642

Try to catch their interest with something else in real life. Also make sure you're not on your phone all the time, set an example.
Kid, 12 years old

My parents actually made me sign a contract before I got the phone. I have to have it plugged in downstairs in the living room by a certain time and I don't get that many apps. You could try and make it a contest. I don't know if apps exist, but you might find one that has a stopwatch on how much you use the phone, but it would be fun for the whole family with phones to get it and then have a contest like whoever spends the least amount of time on the phone wins a piece of candy or something.
Parent of a 12, 14, and 15-year-old written by Richard M.

@ktmcsz: Some of us parents are not constantly on our phones, yet we have kids that are.
Parent of a 14, 15, and 18+-year-old written by Cindy C.

Exactly! I think the same thing! I know why they say it because some parents are just as addicted to their phones as the teens are. But in many cases I think parents could care less about their phone and are setting good examples, but their teens may still have an addiction. It's easier to get addicted to something when you're not busy or bored.
Adult written by MamitadeTian

I was also hoping (like LinVA) that you would have a review of a list of apps that could help set time limits. I have been using Circle Go for wifi use in our home with good results, but now that my kids will have phones, I would love your opinion on the options out there.
Parent of a 10 and 11-year-old written by Beth S.

We use an app called Dinner Time Plus. It allows parents to set time limits on app including games. It also has the ability to set times where the phone only works with certain apps (you as a parent tell it what they can use) like for homework time, dinner time and bedtime. Our kids have access to phone calls and texts at all times but starting at 10 pm those are the only things they can do until 6:30 am. That way if there is an emergency over night they can still use their phones. All other games and social media apps are turned off at that time. We also use the app when we have a discipline issue and we can turn off everything except phone and text. They kids then have to earn their apps back. We have been super happy with the app because it gives them the freedom to use their phones and we can see how long they spend on something and if it becomes obsessive we know it's time to get their phones and check!
Adult written by Viktor Y.

I use an app platform called Kidslox.com - it works great on iOS and android. helps me manage kids screen time. check it out!
Adult written by ktmcsz

You would like your child to put down his or her phone? 1. Put yours down. Children watch and learn, they do not listen and learn. Ever heard: actions speak louder than words? THEY DO.
Teen, 17 years old written by Zane 1

My parents are on there phones more than me. Though I have few friends that I care to text. I would suggest that you limit your child data usage. It should be an option through your provider.