If your child or young teen has a phone, chances are they're on it more than you'd like them to be. Persuading them to put it down, or even look up for a minute, may be an uphill challenge, but these five tips will help you through.
Tempt your youngster away
Introduce something new into your home or your child's life to tempt them away from their phone. It might be a new sport or board game to play as a family, or an opportunity for cookery or craftwork, say, or perhaps they'd like to give you a hand with some home improvements. Consider their previous interests, before they became phone-obsessed, and try luring them back with fresh opportunities or materials. Arrange some outings and trips, or invite family friends around so your child can enjoy some off-screen socialising.
Draw them into conversation
From your kid's point of view, the next best thing to being on the phone is probably talking about it, so start some casual chitchat on the subject. Ask about the games they play, the people they chat online with, and the gossip they hear. Perhaps they have some funny pictures or amazing videos to show you. Express an uncritical interest, and chances are they'll gladly share some of their online experiences with you. Make this shared window a starting point for conversations, jokes and references, rebuilding communication channels away from the phone.
Lay down a few rules regarding when and where your young person can use their phone. You could ban it from meals, for instance, to preserve those times for family chat. Again, it might be a good idea to put limits on phone use during school homework hours and after a certain time at night. But allow plenty of online enjoyment in between, to show respect for their hobby. As the effects of your other measures kick in, you'll have less need of the rules.
Withdraw your funding
If you're paying for your youngster's phone fun, you can curb their use by reducing your funding. Do this openly, to win their trust and cooperation. Tell them you need to cut the cost to fit your budget, and consult them on how best to do this. They might agree to quit some games, cancelling a few apps, or otherwise, to reduce their chatting time. If they're reluctant, try curbing your own outgoings a little, letting them know you're doing so. This gesture will secure their trust in your motives and, hopefully, make them think again.
Explain your concerns
You have compelling reasons to persuade your kid to reduce their phone use, and deep down, they'll understand your concerns, so don't be afraid to air them occasionally. Over time, they'll get their phone and its lures into perspective, but you can spur them on by reminding them, gently and tactfully, of the real world around them. Drop a few hints about how you're missing them, too, and how they have a role to play beyond the Internet. But give them space to come around gradually, in their own way.
Provided your son or daughter is using their phone safely and happily, you needn't worry too much about their obsession. They're simply playing their part in the current social trend. But with these little pointers, you can help them towards a healthier balance of virtual and real, and a renewal of the precious bond between you.