How do I stop my kids using their smart phone at night?


How do I stop my kids using their smart phone at night?

This topic will hit a nerve for some parents. I’m sure there will some out there that will say “just be a parent and take the phone off them”. While that is the most direct answer to this question, in my experience it’s not always as easy as that. So, if you are one of those parents struggling to pry your child’s phone from their hands at night, try this.

I recently discovered the Screentime feature on my iPhone. For those of you who don’t have an iPhone rest assured most smartphones come with a similar feature these days. Now some of you will be rolling your eyes “this guy can’t be serious, that feature has been out for ages!”. Yes, I must admit I was sceptical about this feature, so it took me a while to give it a try.

Comically I was pushed to give this feature a try to solve my own pain point. With so many “work hats” I find that my email and Apps used for work purposes started creeping into my phone use later at night and on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I often work outside of the 9-5 standards, but it was getting to be more than I was comfortable with considering my ideal work/family balance. So, I started playing around the with Screentime feature for myself.

For those who are not familiar, it allows you to do two main things:

  1. Set times where certain or all Apps will not be accessible: for example, I set all my work-related Apps and tools to be locked from 8pm-6am.
  2. Set time limits for each App’s use per day: for example, “30 minutes of Facebook everyday”.

Personally, I focused on the former. As part of The Unplugged Psychologist project I encourage parents and families to find a balance between healthy technology and what might be considered screen and internet addiction. I find this helps me be more mindful and stick to my boundaries. Could I just click “ignore limit” and enter the passcode to bypass the restrictions? Sure. Nothing stopping me. But any adult with some self-control can use this as a gentle reminder of the goals they set for themselves. After all, it’s hard to forget those goals when the “Screen time will be limited until 6am” banner is plastered on my daughter’s face.

Tips for parents implementing screen time restrictions at home with their children:

  • Give the Screentime function a spin before you implement it with your kids. You need to know how it works. Never roll out a half-baked idea, it will end in arguments.
  • Figure out how to set the passcode without your children present. While adults have some level of self-control, most children don’t.
  • Change that passcode every so often. Think of it as your insurance policy against your children tactfully watching you enter it one morning when you are sleep deprived.

In my experience limiting time on specific Apps becomes a never-ending debate with your child. I would think if this as your method to ensure when they are in bed, they are actually going to sleep. That means having the Screentime function turn off anything remotely fun on their phone at bedtime and come on at the time you expect them to wake up. How do you know what’s not fun? Stick with phone calls, alarm clock, music and the torch function and you will be on pretty safe ground.

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