“*Sigh* I’m on my phone too much!”
How often have you said this to yourself? Now that technology is a standard part of everyday life, it’s easier than ever to fill our time—and harder than ever to stay off our phones.
This is especially true when it comes to kids and teens. A modern child’s life involves technology in nearly every aspect: it keeps them connected with friends and faraway family, inspires creativity, and even serves as a study aid in school. As such, it’s no surprise that many kids fill their free time by scrolling on their phone.
However, life is about so much more than technology—and kids and teens know this. In fact, a recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that half of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 believe they spend too much time on their phone. In the same survey, 60% of teens reported that using their phones excessively is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
How, then, can we encourage the children and teenagers in our lives to spend less time on the World Wide Web and more time in the actual world? Well, it all starts with us.
Let’s look at how to avoid using the phone too much.
Reasons to Stay Off Your Phone
Before we get into our list of ways to stay off your phone, I think it’s important that we answer one important question: Is it good to stay off your phone?
Definitely! It is good to turn off your phone. Whether you’re 9 or 90, taking a technology break is one of the best ways to improve mental health, physical health, and your overall enjoyment of life.
But what happens when you stop using your phone so much? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of encouraging your child to take a technology break.
- Your child will sleep better. Phone screens, tablets, and TVs all emit blue light, an artificial form of light that can hinder the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Avoiding screens before bed helps a child’s sleep schedule stay consistent. So how long should you stay off your phone before bed? Scientists recommend an hour—but it never hurts to go above and beyond.
- Your child’s phone will have better battery life. Have you ever found yourself wondering, “How do I stop my phone turning off so quickly?” The answer is easy: use it less! Using your phone less prolongs the device’s battery life, ultimately requiring fewer charges and less attention on your part.
- Your child will have better focus. Phones are notorious for causing distraction after distraction. All it takes is a little ping from an app or web notification to whip us out of the present and onto the screen. Taking a phone break eliminates distractions from notifications, ultimately making it easier to enter the flow state.
- Your bond with your child will deepen. It’s no secret that phones keep us connected with faraway friends and family—but what about the people around us every day? Removing the distraction of technology makes it easier to focus on building strong bonds with loved ones in our immediate vicinity.
- Your child’s mental health could blossom. Social media is the bane of many parents’ existence. Sure, it’s fun, but it also has many negative effects on self-esteem and mental health. Taking a break from the phone, and thus social media, could give your child’s brain a chance to detox from comparison culture and FOMO as they explore their own interests and hobbies.
Ten Ways to Stay Off Your Phone
As you can see, there are so many benefits to staying off your phone. Now here comes the hard part: actually doing it.
Taking a technology break is easier said than done. It’s hard to know how to stay off your phone. However, by taking small steps, it’s possible for kids, teens, and adults to stop spending so much time on the phone.
Here are ten things to do to stay off your phone.
1. Create a “No-Phone Zone”
One of the best ways to encourage technology breaks is to establish no-phone zones around the house. Choose a few of your family’s favorite gathering spots and designate them as phone-free locations. You could start by discouraging phones around the dinner table. It might be a bit awkward coming up with conversation topics at first, but unplugging around the table gives your family the chance to focus on dinner, discussion, and deepening your bonds.
Don’t forget to set a good example and follow your own rules when it comes to the no-phone zone. Many kids learn best by example, so seeing you put your phone away could inspire them to do the same.
2. Turn on Do Not Disturb
Does your child want to avoid the distraction of notifications while still being available in case of an emergency? Show them how to use the “Do Not Disturb” feature available on most phones!
When Do Not Disturb mode is activated, your child’s phone is effectively silenced from receiving distracting notifications. If there’s an emergency, however, important calls and texts from designated contacts can still get through. Turning on this feature is a great way to help your child spend less time on their phone while keeping you connected.
3. Set a Screen Time Schedule
Many smartphones, including those from Troomi Wireless, let you create specific screen time schedules for various apps and games. This feature helps parents ensure that their children have a healthy balance between time spent with their devices and time spent doing more meaningful things.
Sit down with your child and create a screen time schedule that works for them. Explain the benefits of unplugging and how the schedule can help, then answer any questions they might have. Working with children to create a screen time schedule is an important way to ensure that they are engaging in healthy behaviors while simultaneously showing that you value and trust their opinion.
4. Don’t Charge Phones in the Bedroom
Encourage your child to charge their phone outside their room. It’s no secret that phones make it harder to sleep. Removing the device from the bedroom entirely is a great way to improve your child’s quality of sleep while simultaneously helping them spend less time with screens.
To help your kids unplug, try encouraging the whole family to charge their phones outside the bedroom—and yes, that includes you! In addition to better sleep, charging the phone outside helps make the wake up process more natural by giving your brain time to process waking up before being welcomed by an onslaught of texts and notifications.
5. Schedule a Digital Detox Day
Have your kids ever tried a digital detox? It can help them deepen their bonds with friends, break bad habits, discover new interests, and ultimately gain a better appreciation for the present moment.
In our modern world it can be difficult to say goodbye to our phones for even an hour. As such, try scheduling regular digital detox days when the family calendar allows. As the name suggests, a digital detox day is an entire day dedicated to unplugging from tech. When the day arrives, everyone has to turn their phone off and put it away from sun up to sun down.
Use this day to go on a hike, break out the watercolors, or spend some time in the backyard. This is a great way to teach kids to take time for themselves—after all, the screen will still be there when the detox day is done.
6. Try the Tally Mark Experiment
Here’s an experiment you can try with your kids to help them spend less time on their phone. All you need is a piece of paper and a marker.
It works like this: whenever your child is working on something that requires focus, place a piece of paper and a marker next to them. Then, encourage them to make a tally mark on the paper every time they feel the urge to check their phone. At the beginning, the paper will likely be chock-full of tally marks. As your child continues this practice, however, they’ll likely start drawing fewer and fewer marks.
This exercise is a great way for kids and adults to improve focus. The tally marks give you a visual of how often you want to check your phone, while the physical act of making the mark satisfies the brain’s urge to do something different for a second.
7. Delete Distracting Apps
Delete unnecessary apps to help you stay off your phone. Take a few minutes to sit down with your child and go through their app library. If there are any apps that they spend too much time on, like an addictive game or social media outlet, encourage them to delete them. This will help your child minimize the time they spend on their phone while simultaneously saving vital storage space for more important things, like pictures and videos of fun memories with family.
8. Use a Smart Speaker
Many kids use phones for more than just texting. Smartphones are music players, encyclopedias, weather reports, and news outlets. Thankfully, there is a way to get all this functionality without staring at a screen: a smart speaker.
Smart speakers are one of the coolest pieces of technology for kids. They help kids practice verbalizing cues and have many of the same functions as a smartphone, only sans screen. With a smart speaker, your child doesn’t have to risk opening their phone to Spotify and getting sucked into tons of apps along the way. Just show them how to ask the smart speaker to play a specific song!
9. Start a New Hobby
Often, kids and teens turn to the phone because they can’t think of other things to do when they get bored. Surprisingly, though, boredom is good for kids because it gives them time to focus on things they enjoy, like hobbies. Hobbies are fun and creative, making them one of the best things to do when bored without the phone at home.
If your child doesn’t have any hobbies, help them find one that interests them. Don’t be afraid to do some hobby shopping. Sign them up for a karate class, help them whip something up in the kitchen, or do an online painting tutorial. Who knows what will strike their fancy!
11. Switch to Troomi!
It’s easy to help kids spend less time on their phone with Troomi Wireless. If your kiddo has a Troomi device, you can log into the Parent Portal to set screen time limits, app time limits, and create a flexible screen time schedule that works for your child. Troomi phones also eliminate distracting apps like social media and video games, so your child can focus on what really matters: friends, family, and fun.
Disconnect to Reconnect
Let’s face it: Phones are pretty much indispensable in today’s world. We use them for everything from texting and tweeting to taking photos of family memories. This makes it difficult to know how long you should stay off your phone.
Taking occasional technology breaks, however, is a great way to slow down and reconnect with the world—and the people—around us.