kids on phones

Should My Kids Have Cell Phones and Other Devices?

A common issue among parents is navigating the use of phones, tablets, computers, video games, and other devices with our kids. While we might want our kids to have devices for emergencies or completing schoolwork, social media and gaming addiction can present problems for kids. Internet hoaxes and other dangers, such as child predators and cyberbullying, can leave our kids at risk. Cell phones and apps can also be highly addictive, distracting our kids from living their lives and developing healthy habits for lifelong growth.

Can I Just Remove All Devices From My Home?

Some parents believe that the easiest way to navigate these potential issues is not to allow kids to have cell phones or other devices. While this hardline approach might seem tempting and is entirely up to us, we might need to teach our kids how to have healthy relationships with their devices. Kids are growing up in a world where social media, the internet, and computer skills are necessary for school and employment. 

During the pandemic, as kids remained home from school, Zoom classes and online meetups became normal. We cannot avoid devices entirely, as our kids will need them throughout their lives. The world will likely not return to a pre-pandemic state, as the use of remote learning has had some unintentional benefits, such as resuming classes during inclement weather and providing greater access to those with disabilities.

Taking away all devices and access to the internet might leave our kids at a disadvantage in adulthood. If we are not teaching our kids how to have healthy relationships with their devices now, they might struggle later in life with internet addiction or other issues.

Parents Can Set Rules for Devices

As parents, we can set rules and expectations for using devices and the internet in our homes. Kids might attempt to bypass our restrictions by paying for their cell phones. However, remember that we can still hold our kids accountable for any rules we put in place—after all, this is our home, and these are our rules. We cannot control our child’s behavior outside of the house; however, we can set reasonable expectations within our own home.

Consider the following thought: if a teenager purchased their own stereo and played loud music until 3 AM, would we allow this just because the stereo is theirs? Of course not! Though our kids may buy their cell phone plans, we can still set rules for their use while in our homes.

Involve Kids in the Discussion

We might want to consider our child’s perspective on using phones or other devices before setting rules. For our kids, these devices are not novelties—they grew up exposed to them. Kids might have a different perspective on their use, and we might not know everything about why our kids use devices so much more than we might have. 

Whenever setting any rules or expectations for our kids, we should consider bringing them into the discussion to get their buy-in. When kids have their concerns voiced and are given a chance to negotiate, they might be more inclined to follow the rules rather than comply because we said so. Involving kids in the discussion teaches kids to advocate for themselves, agree to expectations, resolve issues through communication and compromise. 

Devices as Leverage and Reinforcement of Positive Behaviors

We can also use devices and internet access to leverage other behaviors, such as completing chores and schoolwork. Electronic devices and social media are essential to kids and, therefore, highly reinforcing. Our kids can earn greater access to them by proving that they can use devices responsibly. As long as devices are not disruptive to a child’s life and mental health, we can lessen restrictions on their access. 

Ultimately, we want our kids to control their behaviors without our guidance. We might need to test the waters, set expectations, provide options to earn more access, and adjust the rules according to our child’s ability to behave responsibly.

What Are Some Rules We Can Set?

For parents unsure of what rules to set within their homes regarding devices, the following suggestions might help:

  • Having a “no devices” at dinner rule—this includes everyone! Parents cannot expect kids to behave responsibly if they check work emails and calls when they ask their kids not to have devices out.
  • We can turn the wifi off as kids unwind and prepare to go to sleep.
  • Completing homework in a shared space, like the kitchen as we prepare dinner, to monitor the usage of devices.
  • Limits to gaming or monitoring our kids while they play video games. Again, gaming can be highly reinforcing as leverage for positive behaviors!

Navigating the use of cell phones and other devices might be challenging for parents. We might not have used these devices when growing up. Now, our kids are claiming that they need cell phones and the internet. Kids are not incorrect in this assertion; they will likely need the internet and devices throughout their lives. Even now, the pandemic has proved the usefulness of using Zoom and other platforms for remote learning and social activities. As parents, we can teach our kids to use these devices responsibly. Remember that we also need to be mindful of our use of these devices to set a positive example for our kids. Some kids use social media and gaming as a way of coping with underlying issues. They might struggle to make friends or develop healthy self-esteem and escape to their devices as a distraction. If your child struggles with internet or gaming addiction, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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