Most teenagers would spend their entire day behind a screen if you’d let them.
Smartphones are an essential part of teenage life. According to the Pew Research Center, there’s been a 73% increase in teen smartphone access between 2014 and 2022 with nearly all teens now having access to one. They also state that the average child has a smartphone by the age of 10 and is participating in some form of social media by the age of 12.
These trends of high smartphone use among teens are alarming as high usage can be detrimental to one’s health. Researchers have found that excessive cellphone use by adolescents can increase anxiety and depression, decrease the quality of sleep, and increase stress. Studies have also shown that individuals with increased screen time are more likely to get less sleep and exercise which can lead to obesity
Although there is not a one size fits all solution to decreasing smartphone use, there are some strategies that can create greater awareness and decrease usage among teenagers.
Read through the following tips to help the teenager in your life develop healthy and balanced smartphone use.
1. Have an open discussion: Educate teens on the negatives of smartphone use
Helping teens use their phones in moderation will require open communication and education on the negative sides of increased usage.
Establishing open communication is crucial for teenagers because they’re starting to feel more independent and feel the need to have their voices heard. Discussion topics such as mental health, cyberbullying, online predators, and the importance of web safety are important topics that should be covered.
Providing an environment for an open and honest conversation makes teens feel heard as to why they want to use their phones and helps provide insight into the benefits a teen gains from smartphone use.
An open conversation leaves room for you to establish awareness and a platform for a discussion on how to create healthy habits around smartphones.
2. Lead by example: Model good cellphone use and boundaries
Research finds the type of relationship parents have with their phones impacts teenagers’ behaviours with smartphones. When adults look at their smartphones in the process of communicating with adolescents, it affects the adolescents’ attitude toward their self-control with smartphones.
Modelling healthy boundaries with smartphones will provide an important and influential example for teens. An example of this is listening and looking at the teen when they are talking and waiting to respond to an email or text until the conversation is over. When adults are using their phones, they can be open as to why they are on their phones when a teen asks. These may seem like small actions, but they provide an environment for a teen to learn healthy smartphone use.
3. Mindfulness and Boundaries: Find a healthy balance together
Studies have shown that not all cellphone use is created equal, and smartphones do have benefits for teens.
Social media networks provide a way for teens to interact with each other that’s not organized like school, and sports. Network spaces like Instagram and TikTok are among the few places where teens can creatively express themselves and develop their identity with peers.
However, as previously stated, too much screen time is detrimental to our health, and it is important to learn how to have a healthy balance with smartphone use.
To help teens establish healthy boundaries, you should decide on a healthy balance together. This could be cellphone-free meals, screen-free days, and no cellphones an hour before bed. There are also self-regulation applications for smartphones such as Freedom and Off the Grid that can be installed to silence alerts and prohibit the use of specific applications. Apple devices now come with the ability to create individualized focus modes. The focus modes can be preset to have certain notifications from apps to be silenced during time frames during the day. This can look like having a “school mode” that lets individuals set personal self-regulating restrictions while still being able to benefit from the various functions that smartphones provide.
Smartphones are everywhere, but you can start a conversation to educate teens on a healthy balance of screen time and model positive behaviour for them.
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About the Author
Alyssa Roehrich holds a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Victoria. Her research area encompasses adolescent smartphone addiction and its impacts on well-being.
Alyssa is passionate about supporting others make healthy lifestyle choices and bettering the community by conducting research in digital health. She can be reached at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.