Is Your Child Phone Obsessed?

Do you have a child obsessed with YOUR smartphone? It really is a modern parenting dilemma these days. Sometimes letting your child play with your cell phone can be helpful- you can keep your child occupied when waiting at the doctor’s office or even while giving them medications, or capture that memorable moment with the on board camera (or maybe not if they won’t let you take the phone to take that photo!) Some days though, your child’s love (or obsession) over the cell phone can be the cause of lengthy temper tantrums!

With modern technology such a vital part of our everyday lives it can be hard to shield our young children from it all. The reality is this is the world they are growing up in and who knows where technology will be when they are older! We had a great question posted in our Facebook group and wanted to share it here as it was a great example of a modern parenting dilemma.

Does this sound familiar? “How do you Moms deal with your cell phone and your little ones? My son is 2 years old and every time he sees my phone he has a tantrum to have it. I am not always on my phone and I really try to limit my use of it in his presence, but it is also my telephone so I do get calls, or need to make calls, once in a while. I do use my phone to take photos. That is actually the main issue. He knows that there are photos on my phone (I made the “mistake” of letting him look at them a few times before) but now, he always wants to have it, and honestly, my phone is something that I consider personal, and that I use for work, so I don’t necessarily feel comfortable for him to “play” with it. I also know that I can’t hide it from him because it will be part of his generation for sure. I also made the “mistake” of using my phone while we get dressed and brush our teeth in the morning. At first, I was playing music on it to make the morning routine more fun, but at one point, he noticed that there were videos playing at the same time as the music, and I let him watch the video (it is children’s songs with cartoon videos). What I do not like about the videos in the morning is that he is so fixed on the screen and I am the one dressing him and brushing his teeth, while I feel that he would be very able to participate in the morning routine. But now I don’t know how to phase the telephone out.”

We loved the supportive answers our group members shared too and agree with all the great advice given by other moms who have been there. The smart phone is a daily part of our lives (love it or hate it!) and our kids are bound to see us on our phones despite how much we may try to limit our usage in their presence.

Here are some tips to prevent those phone obsessed tantrums:

Tip #1: Set limitations and expectations.

The most important step to prevent tantrums is to first set boundaries and limitations for phone usage. Setting limits now while they are young will also create good habits now before those teen years start!

Decide on how much time you want to allow for your child’s screen time. Keep in mind how old your child is and whether or not their screen time interferes with their ability to fall asleep (ie: before nap or bedtime) or their willingness to listen to you. School age children will need to have homework time taken into account as well.

Set expectations about usage: Not only how much time can they play, but when can they play? Will they be allowed to play with the phone in the mornings when they are supposed to be getting ready for the day? What can they play?

As an example, if you are allowing them to use your phone and the phone rings, they have to give it back to you to answer the call. Setting expectations ahead of time allows you to remind your child of the rules without arguments or negotiations.

Your expectations may also include which buttons they are allowed to press (or not) and may also include when they can play (for example, you may want to allow them time on your phone in the morning while you finish getting ready but you need them to eat their breakfast or get dressed first)

Tip# 2:  Stay consistent.

Setting very clear limitations and being consistent is important and will help the upset get shorter because your child knows the temper tantrum is not going to change things.  For example, if you agree to allow them to see photos or play some videos or music, set the expectations and follow through: “one more picture, than the phone is going away for now” or “here comes the last song”.

As with any device, be it TV, game consoles, smart phones or iPads, it is also a good idea to set some rules and stick with them. Although there are many experts who advocate for as minimal screen time as possible, it is ultimately up to you as the parent to decide what you are comfortable with. Whatever you decide though, stay consistent!

Tip# 3: Let them play with a ‘dummy’ phone

Giving your a child a non-fully functional phone that can be their own, or that you can allow them to play with in place of yours is a great substitute. You wouldn’t care about if it got broken and they would not have internet access or be able to accidentally do anything they shouldn’t!

My toddler would have a melt down to get at my phone. When I got a new cell phone, I kept my old one for her to have. I keep it charged but it doesn’t have any data or anything on it. That way, she has “her” phone to simply hold onto and pretend to make phone calls and have phone conversations. Melt downs disappeared!”

Tip #4: Use a screen lock!

If your device allows you to have a code to enter to unlock the screen, do it! And, if you have an iphone, turn off the feature that wipes your phone of it’s data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it! This way your child needs your permission to have access to your phone should you allow it.

Tip#5: Disable in-app purchases and dictation

If you are going to allow your child time on your cell phone, make sure to check your security settings. If there are any apps your child uses that have in-app purchases, disable them if you can or make sure a password is needed for in-app purchases. On iOs devices go to Settings>General>Restrictions>Enable Restrictions. It can be amazing what those little fingers can do while they are playing!

You may also want to disable the dictation feature (ie: Siri on iOs) as they can inadvertently end up ‘saying’ things that the dictation feature may misunderstand and could end up in apps or on the internet where you may not want them to be.  This tip was discovered the hard way! My little one was trying to search for Moana using the dictation and it understood her request as ‘Marijuana’!

Sticking to the rules you set and keeping them consistent will help keep temper tantrums at bay and keep your phone obsessed child in good spirits. You may need to adjust the rules as your kids get older, and certainly as they start getting their own devices. We hope these tips help you prevent the next cell phone inspired temper tantrum!
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Restful Parenting | Holistic Sleep Consultants

We are Holistic Infant and Child Sleep Consultants and we work with families to teach them how to help their little one's get the sleep they need using methods that you will be comfortable with. Offering private sleep consultations and group workshops to parents from Ottawa, North Bay, and all around the world.

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