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Anyone who remembers life before smartphones knows that there’s a life outside of them. Generation Z, on the other hand, is the first group of people growing up in a world where this technology never wasn’t. It should come as no surprise to find out that our kids are spending way too much time on their phones.
It’s critical that we make an effort to understand exactly what it is that keeps the younger generation glued to their screens and consider what we can do to help them understand and experience life outside of technology. After all, if moms and dads already struggle to turn that screen off, how much harder is it to expect kids to do so?
How Too Much Phone Time Is Hurting Our Kids
There’s no doubt that too much phone time can have some pretty serious side effects. Let’s break down a couple examples:
Genuine phone addiction is a real issue for some — it actually has a name: problematic internet use. Even if your child isn’t in the minority who truly struggle with this issue, having addictive tendencies towards one’s smartphone is certainly a rampant epidemic among younger generations.
For example, nearly three out of every four teens feel pressure to immediately respond to any and every notification they receive. Call it an addiction or not — over half of the teenagers themselves think they use their phones too much — either way, the behavior of being perpetually tethered to and controlled by their phones is certainly impacting our children’s ability to function on a daily basis.
While it’s an extreme, another example of how tragic the reckless overuse of phones can be has come in the form of an uptick in accidents due to distractions from phone use. While texting and driving at the same time is the poster child of dangerous smartphone behavior, even seemingly harmless things like the popular game “Pokemon Go” have led to hundreds and potentially even thousands of accidents.
Lost Career Opportunities
While they may be kids now, another negative side effect of smartphone use can rear its ugly head when the youth begin to head into the work world. Distractions in the workplace aside, hiring managers are also using social media more often to observe how potential employees present themselves and interact with others — and the results are a bit alarming.
The statistics show that 39 percent of hiring personnel have turned down a candidate after finding inappropriate information, pictures, or videos on their social profiles. In addition, 38 percent did so after finding candidates partaking in drinking or drugs, while 27 percent have done so because they discovered a candidate had lied about qualifications for the position.
The point is, with our children constantly on their phones, filling their social media profiles with questionable content, they may not only be wasting away their precious childhoods but also setting themselves up for a harder job search in the future.
How to Get Your Kids to “Turn Off”
While the reasons behind our children’s’ phone struggles are numerous, we’ll stop there and take a look at the positive end of things: what we can do to help them. Here are a few constructive ways to get our kids to take a break from their screens and begin to experience more of the world around them:
For the Love of the Game
If you have a tech-loving kid that won’t get up off the couch, you might want to consider enrolling them in a group sport like soccer, basketball, or football. The importance of participating in team sports is a concept as old as time itself. Participation in a sport is a win-win, as it gets your kids off their phones and simultaneously helps them develop their bodies and learn about things like teamwork, hard work, and all of the other character-building elements that comes with investing time in a competitive sport.
Unplugged Road Trips
Road trips are an iconic vacation option. In addition, they also present the perfect opportunity to have the family “unplug” from technology as you hit the pavement in search of adventure together. From creating playlists to purchasing snacks, choosing locations to visit, and so on, make sure to involve your kids in the planning and packing process so that they’re more willing to give up their phones during the trip.
Set Time Limits
This one sounds easy but can actually be rather difficult. Rather than laying down the law, try communicating to your kids the value of good sleep, homework, and time spent as a family. Ask them to help you set boundaries, like no phones at the dinner table or a “screens off” time a half hour before bed, in order to let their minds calm down. Getting them in on the planning can be the perfect way to increase their commitment.
Camping and Hiking
Of course, one of the best ways to get away from technology is to head into the great outdoors. Plan a hiking trip or, even better, an entire camping trip with your kids. Exercise, fresh air, a full day or two without focusing on a screen a foot from their face — the benefits of some time spent in nature are hard to understate. Explore adventurous options, such as a ski trip, to show your children the excitement life outside of their smartphones can offer. While planning for such activities entails some extra considerations, they can make for truly eye-opening experiences.
Helping Our Children With Their Phones
There are numerous ways that we can open our children’s eyes to the concern that they’re overusing their phones. In fact, it’s become a responsibility for us as parents to do so. If we don’t teach them good phone etiquette while they’re young, chances are they’ll continue to struggle with it throughout their lives. Instead, seize the initiative and take advantage while they’re young in order to help them learn how to navigate a world inundated with technology.