Sometimes, it can seem like your teen exists purely on their smartphone. From talking to friends, scrolling through social media, to even attempting to do homework, there are plenty of things to do on a smartphone. However, for many kids, their attachment to their phones leads to a severe lack of etiquette.
If you have been struggling to help your teen have better phone etiquette, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas to help your kid put down the phone and make real connections with others.
How Teens Can Improve Text Messaging Habits
According to the Pew Research Center, texting is the main way teens contact their friends. While there is nothing inherently wrong with texting to communicate with friends—I often arrange meetups with my friends through text—adolescents tend to rely on texting for the majority of their communication needs.
With much of their communication done through text, kids may fall into poor communication habits as texting creates artificial distance between them and the person they are texting. Some negative side effects of too much texting may show up as having a hard time talking in-person, being overly blunt via text, or sending risque messages.
To help your teen improve their texting habits—and learn when not to text—here are some things for them to try.
- Keep texting for short messages. If the conversation goes over five-10 minutes, it’s time to call and continue the chat that way.
- Never say anything over text that can’t be said face-to-face. If it is too mean, hurtful, rude, or negative to say to the other person’s face, then maybe it shouldn’t be said at all.
- Don’t text others while hanging out with a friend. It tells that friend that they aren’t important enough to focus on.
- Phones need to be put away while driving. While most teens are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, 35% of teens text and drive anyway.
- Jokes and sarcasm do not come across well while texting. No matter how many emojis are used, it is difficult to convey complex emotions and jokes over text.
Ways Kids Can Moderate Social Media Usage
Along with using their phones for texting, many teens and preteens can be often found using social media on their smartphones. While social media can be used to keep up with friends and family, there are dangers.
For instance, surveys have shown that cyberbullying is alive and thriving on social media. In fact, according to one survey, 42% of students on Instagram have experienced cyberbullying. Other social media platforms are not far behind.
Even without the specter of cyberbullying, excessive social media usage can leave kids with underdeveloped social skills. Some ways you can encourage your child to cut back on their social media screen time are:
- Create phone-free areas in your home. Keeping smartphones out of private areas of the home can help ensure that your teen isn’t staying up all hours on their phones, and help reduce the chance that something inappropriate will happen.
- Reduce the amount of social media accounts your child can use. With the seemingly endless social media platforms available, kids can spend hours just catching up with their various feeds. You can use parental controls to ensure that your teen uses only a couple of social media apps.
- Have your kid earn social media “credit” by doing other things. Children who have to earn the time they spend on their social media are less likely to be as attached to their phones. Some ways you can have your kid earn social media time is with exercise, maintain good grades, extra chores, and other activities that encourage real-world involvement.
Techniques That Help Teens Go Phone-Free
As smartphones are pocket-sized devices, it is easy to take them everywhere. However, this convenience also fosters a dependency on teens on their phones. They can never feel bored enough to be creative because there is always something to scroll on social media or a YouTube video to watch. Teens can be simultaneously too busy to do homework and chores and not doing anything when they have a phone.
To help your teen breakthrough their phone dependency, here are some ways you can encourage your child to go phone-free.
- Set a technology bedtime where all TVs, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, and phones are put away. Not only will it help your teen find non-tech things to do, but it will likely help them have a better sleep schedule.
- Go camping as a family and leave the phones at home—though having one emergency phone is a good idea.
- Have family activities that are phone-free, such as visiting a museum, going on local tours, hiking, painting together, etc. It can be tempting to allow phones for picture taking. If phones are brought for that purpose, set limits on when they can be brought out.
It may be tough for your kid to implement all these things at once. Frankly, it may not stick if you try to have them change all their phone habits. But with your support over time, your child can become more empowered and learn to disconnect from their phone and really connect with other people.
What have you done to instill positive phone etiquette in your children and teenagers?
Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on Twitter and Linkedin.