Most teenagers display information on Facebook and many appear on multiple social media webpages. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow users to play games online, chat, and share photos and personal information. They can purchase almost anything they want online.
Limiting your child’s cell phone use is difficult when you, the parent, model smartphone, landline, social media, and Internet use seven to nine hours each day. Your computers, televisions, and e-readers become family values. Your toddler plays with and talks on the phone before he or she knows the alphabet.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommends “screen-free times and places” to “reclaim conversation.” Your children need prosocial bonds, and the ability to express their ideas and communicate their feelings is an important part of communication skills. Common Sense Media stresses the importance putting digital devices aside. Family rules should apply to all members of the family. If dinner is a no phone time and the dinner table is a no phone zone, then mom and dad should not walk away from the table to take “important calls” in the midst of discussions of what’s new at school.
Reading with your children increases their skills, but it also helps you develop their interests. Your children are expected to recognize, understand, and use 1000s of words at an early age. They can toggle back and forth, switch screens, and cut and paste, but can they read and process the information in books and articles? The word hippo does not help them organize thoughts. You can use time gained from turning off the phones to develop your children’s interests in more depth or to discuss current events, family matters, or youth organizations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that families develop a “family media plan” for young children and teenagers. Children and teenagers need to acquire knowledge through “exposure to new ideas,” but they also need “social contact and support.” You should know who your child talks to online and which websites they visit to restrict inappropriate or potentially harmful contacts. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends developing family boundaries for sharing personal information online and willingness to share time spent online together.