How to Manage Teenage Screen Time

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Parenting Teenagers, Popular, Teen Behaviors, Teen Mental Health

how to manage teenage screen time

Teens and their phones go together almost like peanut butter and jelly. When you see a teenager, you’re never surprised to see a phone in their hand and their eyes on the screen. But the big question is, how much is too much? Learning how to manage teenage screen time can be tricky to navigate. Here are my top 5 tips to get your teen off their phone, to help you get started.

If you drive by a group of teens at their bus stop, what do you see them doing? Scrolling on their phones. How about when they are sitting in the car? Scrolling on their phones. Even in your family room, when they are with a group of friends? Scrolling on their phones.

At times it can seem like you’re in a constant battle with your teen and it appears they are always on their phone. This can be incredibly frustrating for parents.

Some reports indicate that teenagers spend up to 8-9 hours per day on screens (phones, computers, video games, and television). Yet recommended screen time for teens can be as low as 2-4 hours. Quite a big difference, leaving parents to wonder, how can I manage my teenager’s screen time?

This can seem incredibility difficult when your teen experiences social pressure from friends, social media exposure and more. Making it difficult to manage and determine how much is too much for your teen.

The key is to help your teen find activities that don’t involve their screens. To help them move away from their phone and find joy in other activities. After that, you’ll need to step in and establish clear guidelines for your teenager’s cell phone use.

teens and phones

5 Tips to Get Your Teen Off Their Phones

Learn how to manage teenage screen time with my top 5 tips to get your teen off their phones, creating healthier options for your teen.

1. Engage in Behaviours that Don’t Require a Screen

Teenagers often scroll on their phones when they are bored. As a parent, work to find activities that require your teenager to put down their mobile phone. Ask your teen to walk the dog, read a book to a younger sibling, or unpack groceries. In fact, a great place to be phone-free is in the kitchen. 

Baking is a fun and entertaining activity for teenagers. Time will pass quickly as they work through a recipe. Perhaps you can join them in the kitchen and use the time as an opportunity to connect.

In addition to creating a time and place for connection, baking will help your teen learn new life skills. An added bonus, it’ll be hard for them to scroll on their cell phones while their hands are covered with dough. Remember, the more engaged they are, the less likely they will turn to their cell phones.

To learn more about how baking can help you connect with your teenager, be sure to download your free copy of my  10 Teenage Communication Skills Every Parents Needs. A great resource to help you get started. 

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2. Set Limits on Teenage Cell Phone Use

Always keep in mind that a cell phone can be mis-used and it is up to you to teach your teenager to use it safely. At the very least, you’ll want to share your expectations with your teen. Just because you have given your teenager a mobile phone it does not mean that it comes without family rules.

When you give your teenager a cell phone, remind them it is not a gift, but a responsibility. Your teenager needs to “earn” the right to use it. Establish specific times when it is ok for your teen to use their phone, after school–½ hour before starting homework; weekend afternoons; 1-hour before bed. 

Before the digital age, parents often limited when their teenagers could talk on the house phone. Think of cell phone use in the same way. Parents need to manage their teens’ cell phone use from the very beginning. If not, they will end up fighting an on-going battle with their teens.

how to limit phone use

3. Involve Your Teenager in Making Cell Phone Rules

When you make rules about your teenager’s cell phone use, it is important to give them a voice.  It is more likely that your teen will follow the rules if they feel they have had a say in making them. Rather than just creating a rule, ask for your teen’s input.

Teenagers are full of opinions and ideas. Listen to them. Ask what times they really need to be on their phones. If all of their friends are on a group chat at 8PM, your teen will want to be able to join in. Allow for fluidity in the rules. Sometimes the guidelines need to be flexible to accommodate the events in their daily lives. 

4. Stick With Your Guidelines

Don’t be surprised when your teenager argues that they are the only ones with cell phone rules. They may call you the worst parent ever for making these ridiculous rules. Yikes! That can hurt!!

However your role as a parent requires you to enforce rules, and that is not always fun. Know that you are doing your job and are setting your teenager up for success. Also remind yourself that your teenager probably has no idea what rules their friends’ parents have established, even if they claim they do. If you are feeling isolated on this issue, seek out other parents who support your efforts. Trust me, they are out there.

5. Establish Family Time When No Cell Phones Are Used

Each day it is essential to set time with your teenagers when nobody is on a screen. Find a time each day to put away mobile phones/ipads, turn off the TV, and close the computer screen. Be a good role model.

Be mentally and physically present. Nothing is worse than when you want to talk to someone and they are distracted by a screen.Use this time to connect and enjoy each other’s company. 

A great time to connect without cell phones is during a family dinner. Aim to have 1-2 dinners together each week.

family activities with teenager

Understandably families get busy and there aren’t always times to have dinner together, but make it a priority to spend at least ½ hour together, each day without the interruption of a screen.

If a family dinner doesn’t fit your schedule, be creative. Maybe it’s Sunday brunch or Friday night cookies and a movie that work as good times for your family to spend time together and turn your screens off.

Remember…

Following these 5 guidelines will help you learn how to manage teenage screen time and create healthier boundaries for your teen. And who knows…it may even lead to a new hobby or skill, like baking!

sara lane

Author - Sara Lane

Sara has a masters of education in counselling psychology and a graduate certificate in parenting education. She uses her unique set of skills with her parenting education background and love of baking. Sara teaches tweens/teens how to bake and offers tools to help parents who are worried about the well-being of their kids. Sara helps support teens and their parents through the power of baking!

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