Parents are raising their children in an environment that is very unlike the one they experienced while growing up. They are, in fact, raising a generation that feeds on the internet and is highly addicted to smartphones. Ever since smartphone ownership became commonplace among teens, their well-being experienced a sharp decline.
Researchers studied a survey data from 1.1 million youngsters and came to the conclusion that the adolescents who spend more time on social media, gaming, texting and the internet suffered from lower self-esteem, sadness and lower satisfaction with life on the whole.
How Smartphones Affect a Child’s Mental Health
like depression, suicide, anxiety, sleep deprivation, etc. are increasing due to the use of smartphones. Teens who spend five hours or more in a day on their electronic devices are 71 percent more likely to be at risk of suicide when compared with teens who spend less than one hour a day on their smartphone. Those who use digital devices this much are 52 percent more likely to sleep less than seven hours a night. The more time young adults spend on social media, the more lonely and depressed they feel. Now, tell me: isn’t all this alarming?
There is even a study by UCLA that linked the overuse of mobile devices among 6th graders with a diminished ability to read human emotions. Mobile devices surely promote social skills, but they don’t support face-to-face communication and relationship building.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents need a minimum of an hour of physical activity each day, and they should be involved in moderate to intensive activity for at least one hour. Are you sure your child is physically active like he should be?
Some parents believe that the “cold turkey” strategy to taking phones away is the only option left. I say not necessarily; this approach is never going to work. You will have to tackle this addiction smartly. Here is a guide on how parents can keep smartphones from influencing the mental health of their kids:
What You Can Do to Protect Your Kids
The most shocking thing is that children start using technology habitually. How many kids do you know today who cannot eat without an iPad? Do you know a kid who can’t sit in a car or a restaurant without a gadget in hand? Probably not. We are making technology an important part of our kids’ lives from a very young age. This needs to stop. Parents must raise their kids with minimal technology around them until they are at least 2 years old. That’s the first step to prevention.
Unplug and Get Outside
The next thing you need to work on is making your kid go outside the house without their smartphone. You will have to push them to spend time screen-free until it becomes a habit. Take them to a park, hiking, or the trails to bike together. Make them spend time in nature and have a real-time connection with family and friends. They need to know there is a world outside their smartphone, too.
Use Parental Controls
Parental controls allow you to keep your kids away from unhealthy content on their smartphones, whether it’s a website or an app. They allow parents to control where their kids go, with apps like TrackMyFone and Xnspy by checking their locations, and they also let parents apply geo-fencing, blocks apps, and limit screen time by locking the smartphone.
Lots of parents don’t even know about the parental control features that smartphones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and social media sites possess. If that’s you, do some research, make yourself familiar with these controls, and use them for your kid’s benefit.
Set Electronic Curfews
There should be a curfew for the entire family. Have a “no phones at the dinner table” policy, and use one hub, such as your bedroom, to charge all devices. Or, you can take your child’s phone away at bedtime to ensure they sleep well.
You must set hard limits here. Tell them if they comply with the rules, they will get their phone back in the morning. If they protest, the amount of time before they get back their device will increase. Be a good role model, too, and make a concerted effort to spend less time on your phone.
Have a Talk About Sexual Content
Sexual content easily finds its way onto the smartphones of young kids. You probably cannot stop your child from seeing sexual images eventually, but what you can do is talk about it. Communicate as early and as often as possible. You must talk about pornography, too. Tell them it’s a sort of sexual imagery which they are likely to see on the web pretty easily. Let them know that simplified sex shown in porn can be damaging to real-life relationships. Your preteen or teen must know that real-life sex involves emotions.
Coach Them on Social Skills
It’s never too late to coach your kids on social skills. For this, take them outdoors and encourage healthy interaction with other kids. Fun games like charades can help them read expressions too, so why not include them in family game night?
Follow this guide and help your kids grow up into more engaged, active, and capable people who are not addicted to their smartphones.