Q [School age]: My tween daughter is constantly on her smartphone or on her computer texting or chatting with friends. I’m concerned that all of the screen time is impacting her overall face-to-face communication. What do you recommend that I do to help create balance for my “screenager?”
A: This is definitely a hot topic issue with parents today and you are not alone in having concerns. It’s a good idea to establish some boundaries to help your daughter with balancing her screen time with other areas of her life.
When expressing your concern about the amount of time she spends on her phone, she may respond more favorably if you can start the discussion with positive ways she is managing her schoolwork or other chores. Discuss the importance of balance and spending more time interacting as a family. Admit you also struggle at times, so tackling screen time as a family issue may prevent her from feeling singled out. Propose a blackout time period for the whole family, limiting the use of any screen or phone during certain evening hours. Have a family meeting about how to spend that time, and let each person take turns choosing ideas. Including her ideas will help her feel more like part of the solution and smooth the transition.
If your daughter is still struggling to maintain balance with her phone usage, check into your phone plan. Parental controls can limit text messages and have features that block texts or alerts during certain times of the day. One last resort is using prepaid phones. This creates a natural consequence for phone usage; when the minutes and texts are up, the phone is turned off. Then tweens often learn how to better manage their phone time.
Remember with any new plan, it’s important to be consistent and to spell out boundaries and consequences and make sure you are modeling desired behavior for her.
Dianna Troutt is an Orange County Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). To find a therapist near you or to learn more about child development and behavior management visit CounselingCalifornia.com