Before the onslaught of the coronavirus and all the concerns it has generated, Eaton Academy was researching issues revolving around cell phones and social media. To that end we had the therapist Nancy Rosenblum visit with some students last Friday. Additionally, we’ve picked up several bits of information and suggestions that may be of benefit to you and your children. This is a fairly lengthy message. Please read it when you have time.
In no particular order they are:
- With cell phones, you are advised to turn off notifications that are not from actual people who are trying to contact you. Social media alerts, newsfeeds, and the like can cause undue stress. They try to compel us to deal with them NOW.
- Similarly, try to change the color of your alert/notification numbering from little red circles to blue or green. Humans feel almost “forced” to deal with things in red – that’s why the companies use red as their default color for such symbols. A person can even go to the extreme of making the phone’s color palette “grayscale,” depending on the type of phone.
- Children should leave their phones in their parents’ room to charge overnight. Obviously, this placement prevents children from being on their phones late at night. Also, having the phone in close proximity to them when they wake up entices children to make checking their phones the first act of their day. On that same note, children should not use their phones as their wake-up alarm.
- When children do school work at home, they should NOT have their cell phones near them. A phone within arm’s reach is a temptation to be pulled off task. Studies indicate that some individuals can take up to 20 minutes to get “back into it” once they’ve been pulled off track.
- Experts say that we need to stop worrying about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and try to experience JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out). Encourage kids to see how good it can feel to “turn things off” now and then. You might want to try doing so yourself.
- Adults need to “lead by example” with phone usage as with other elements of daily life. If your children observe you on your phone constantly even to the point of distraction, they can naturally follow suit – the adage “do what I say, not what I do” is not an effective approach with phones. This situation is, of course, of particular importance when driving.
- While therapists and health officials may advocate that parents need to impose usage limits on their children with regard to time spent using cell devices, studies indicate that such admonishments are virtually impossible for parents to enforce and for children to follow. Of potential greater practicality and benefit is the imposition of a specific amount of “off device” time. Stipulate to your children that they need to set aside a certain amount of time In their days for time away from the phone. Times such as homework and meals are easily recognizable and meaningful.
- Parents need to start setting rules and expectations about the cell phone early – as soon as you give a child a phone. Remember that you are the one paying for the phone (saying, “I’m the boss” can be confrontational and counter-productive). You can work with your carrier on a number of limits, caps, and protections for your children’s phone usage. Apps like Bark, about which I emailed last month, can also be of service.
- In dealing with our students and their phones, we have discovered that they are very adept at installing programs and apps on their phones and computers about which their parents know nothing. I highly encourage you to occasionally examine your children’s devices to learn just what apps they are using. If you are not familiar with something, Google it (if you don’t want to just ask your child and thereby seem uncool — or would that be “unchill” in today’s vernacular?).
- While very few children today actually “talk” on their phones, they use the device as their portal to the world. Social media, texting, and group texting are their way of life. For the most part, that fact is not terrible. However, the everyday stress that adolescents (and younger kids) experience naturally can become significantly heightened and exacerbated via the use of the virtual world.
I know our current health concern is occupying most of “worry currency”, but that situation will pass. Dealing with children and devices and social media will be of far greater import for far longer.