Guest Post: Is your kid addicted to their smartphone?

For the parents of teenagers, one thing is a near constant – the sound of smartphones and other devices buzzing with notifications from Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites teenagers use to stay connected with each other all the time. However, if kids spend too much time surfing the internet or responding to text messages, it can affect their development later on in life.

According to a new study conducted by Common Sense Media in May 2016, 50 percent of teenagers said that they feel addicted to their smartphones. Nearly 60 percent of the parents who were polled stated that they are aware of their children spending far too much time with electronics. The report includes information from 1,240 parents and their kids living in the same household.

The study found that 72 percent of teenagers felt an intense need to answer a text message when they receive one, and 78 percent of respondents check their smart devices at least once an hour. What was most striking, however, was both parents and children admitting that the constant smartphone usage was actively straining their relationships, though they seem unwilling to give up the action or even modifying their behavior.

“What we’ve discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences,” Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said of the report. "We also know that problematic media use can negatively affect children’s development and that multitasking can harm learning and performance.”

What can parents do to ensure their kids do not remain addicted to their smart devices? There are a number of ways this can be accomplished: 

Limiting time spent on the internet 
Curbing social media posting to between three and five posts per week 
Urging teenagers to take a walk or work out when the urge to check an electronic device is strongly felt. 

What can parents do to wean their kids off of their smart devices?

The main thing parents should keep in mind is that they need to be completely upfront with their teenagers when it concerns their smart phones. If parents try to sneak around behind their backs and the actions were ever discovered, this would just result in complete distrust and a further straining of the relationship. Monitoring their online activities is fine, but honesty is necessary.

A monitoring app, will allow parents to remotely follow their teens’ messages, texts and other internet activity. So, if a teenager is spending far too much time each day online, their parents will know this and be able to shut it down or adjust it if necessary. This will also allow parents to keep their children safe from cyber bullying or other threatening messages.

What can parents do to ensure teenage smart device usage does not become an issue?

Of course, the power is within the parents’ hands to ensure they use their kids are using smart devices safely and responsibly. Parents should take note of the following and change their kids’ habits if need be:

Do not allow them to be distracted by a smart phone when in the company of others, as this can damage the relationship with the person they are with. 

Teenagers should never use a phone while in the car, especially while operating the vehicle. The leading cause of accidents and deaths on the road is distracted driving. 

Kids need to be aware of their behavior with the smart device. Should parents notice their teenagers are taking their phones into unnecessary situations, adjustments need to be made. 

As the world changes and society’s relationship to technology develops with it, both parents and teenagers will need to be aware of how their technology usage can have a long-term impact on their relationships. By limiting access to social media and life through electronic devices, a balance can be struck and those devices can be one part of life, but not the most important element.

About the Author 

Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t spark her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7. Follow: @HilaryS33