How Parents Can Keep Teens Off Their Smartphones


It’s summertime, the kids are out of school, and likely spending more time than ever on digital devices. In a recent poll of 1,240 teens and parents by Common Sense Media, a whopping 50 percent of kids admitted that they were addicted to their mobile devices, and 59 percent of parents said their kids just can’t keep their eyes off those colorful screens.

As a mom of a teen myself, I consider this one of the biggest parenting issues of our time, and was relieved to see the documentary Screenagers tackle it head-on.

The movie begins with a question by the director and narrator, Dr. Delaney Ruston, wondering when is the “right time” to buy her then 12-year old daughter a smartphone. At the same time, Dr. Ruston’s worried about the amount of time her 14-year old son spends playing video games, as well as the increasing role gadgets play in the lives of young patients at her primary care practice.

Framed with the overall narrative of “how much screen time time is healthy,” Screenagers explores the science between the addictive pull of electronic devices and kids developing brains. It does a great job at least touching on most of worrisome issues surrounding kids and gadgets including fragile self-esteem, social isolation, and even digital addiction. It also provides discussion around ways to help young people develop self-control and find balance in their digital lives. It’s a movie parents should definitely see — and discuss — with their kids and each other.

Beyond just telling you to see the movie though — it’s important to note that many parents today might just have to use tech — to manage the issue of too much tech. For that, here are a few apps and gadgets that can help right away.

If your goal is to lure your teen out of their dark dungeon of a bedroom and get them engaged in some genuine family time, the Glued app (iOS, Android) is a great tool. It’s a rewards-based leaderboard system that tracks how often you and your kids use your devices, and grants points for time spent away from the screen.

Special incentives encourage family time during specific times of the day and days of the week, and you can track overall device usage on a timeline to show how much your motivational efforts are helping. The competitive aspect makes turns phone-free time into a game, and handy alarms will give you a nudge if a family member has been binging on too many digital delights.

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Source: USA Today | Jennifer Jolly