Parenting looks a lot different to us today than it did even just a few decades ago, and a huge reason for that is due to the introduction of the internet and smartphones within our daily lives. This introduction of technology has been an incredible thing that has allowed us to connect with friends and family around the world with the simple push of a button, make new friends that have similar interests or hobbies, and learn about topics and places you previously had no knowledge of. With all of these positive aspects, though, there are bound to be more undesirable ones that also come with the prevalence of smartphones in society. Since parenting styles are shifting so much to accommodate the use of smartphones, it’s difficult to know if accurate choices are being made, both for you as a parent and your child. We’re here to talk about how to navigate the world of parenting in the era of smartphones and hopefully provide some insight on a circumstance that is relatively new for everyone.
Practically all cellphones on the market today are smartphones, which means they have internet capabilities as well as other features that make them more advanced than the small flip phones that first made their way to the scene. Smartphones are now tools that are pretty much used in everyday life with various professions, for navigation, and as a way to communicate with anyone that you need to throughout the day.
What also happens to come with smartphones is social media, which are apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These apps have their time and place and can be wonderful, but it’s no secret that they are consuming and addicting – and they might be affecting your mindset as a parent to some degree if you spend ample time on them. It can be hard to realize whether or not the time you spend with your screen is affecting your role as a parent, but if you feel like it is, it might be time to step back and reevaluate things and make an effort to make some changes and to set the example you want to for your kids. Some simple tips to follow include:
Most smartphones these days have a setting that allows you to set a time limit on different apps, so that you do not mindlessly scroll for hours on end. It will tell you when you’ve reached your limit for the day, so this can help you become more aware of the exact time you are spending on apps for entertainment.
Of course, it’s not feasible to give your undivided attention to your child 24 hours a day, every day, but there have been studies done that indicate parents are way more distracted from what their kids are up to when on their phones – especially out in public. You might want to try out only using your phone when you’re not with your kids, such as when they’re at school, napping, or with friends. There will be times with work or in other situations when you need to make a call or send an e-mail, which is much different than flipping through all the different social media apps.
Smartphones can create a much higher sense of security and peace of mind when you allow your child to have one, so it is completely understandable why any parent would want their kids to be connected in this way. Smartphones are fantastic tools, and it makes complete sense why parents decide to let their child or teen have one – they provide a direct line of contact to them, they can feel secure knowing that they have a GPS on them, and if there is ever an emergency situation, it’s much better to have a smartphone handy. Regardless, it can certainly be very tricky to know how to best go about giving your child their first smartphone, and it’s very reasonable to have reservations about it. Some guidelines that can help this process include:
It’s important to have an open line of communication with everyone involved when it comes to presenting your child with their first phone. A lot of parents want their kids to have one starting at a young age so that they can have the peace of mind of being able to reach them, if need be, but others might feel more comfortable with waiting until they are in their teen years. You know what is best for your family and individual child, but just be sure that everyone is on the same page regarding this topic.
It can be dangerous for adolescents to have access to everything smartphones offer, so it’s vital to set clear and concise boundaries with them if you do decide it is best for them to have one. Whatever rules and boundaries you feel are best is great – this might look like setting screen time limits, not letting them have certain social media apps, and not allowing them to have access to it on school nights. Your child should know exactly what your desired boundaries are and why you’ve placed them, which will help to avoid confusion and miscommunication.
There is no parenting guidebook, especially when it comes to such a novel topic like smartphones, which haven’t really been around long enough for us to fully grasp how it might be affecting parent and child relationships. At the end of the day, you know what’s best for you and your child, and you can always feel it out as you go and change your course of action regarding this matter if you sense that things aren’t as you intended. It’s a terrific thing to have the capability to be so connected and to have the peace of mind that your child can be, as well, but there is such a thing as having too much of anything, which is why it’s best to approach the use of smartphones with a moderate mindset.
Dr. Messina & Associates has a caring and compassionate team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists that specialize in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults. In-person appointments are available in our DFW (Southlake) offices. Online appointments are available to patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston, and San Antonion areas.