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Cutting Our Device Distractions In the World of Screens

As teens need help disconnecting, parents realize their own struggle to unplug.

Source: Bigstock

Whether it's the beep of a text message or ding of a notification of a social platform, no matter what age you are, there's a very good chance you're likely digitally connected to your cell phone–more than you realize.

From the moment the majority of teens wake-up (72 percent), according to a recent Pew Research survey, they are checking their messages or notifications. Being without their device, over half (56 percent) felt at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious. Girls were more likely than boys to feel anxious or lonely.

It's all of us

Mom and dad are struggling too. Many parents (36 percent) admit they spend too much time on their cell phone while the majority of their teens (51 percent) say they often find their parent distracted by their screen when they're trying to have a conversation with them.

When it comes to on the job, 15 percent of parents say they lose focus at work because they are distracted by their phone. That is nearly double the share of teens (8 percent) who say they often lose focus in school due to their own cellphones.

Curbing the screen

It seems that most are in agreement they want to reduce their obsession to their beeps, dings, bells and whistles, and like most diets–it can be easier when you do them together.

Truly, it does start at the top. Parents need to know they have to lead by example and this means cutting their screen time too.

1. Turn-off or limit your notifications. These noises (even buzzes) can be stress triggers, not only for teens but even for adults. Make a habit of only checking in to your platforms several times a day.

Takeaway tip: Go into your apps notifications under settings, turn-off all notifications and manually select what apps you need to have on.

2. Family contract. Over a quarter of teens (26 percent) wish that someone (either their parent or school) would impose reasonable screen time limits on them. Is it time to have everyone sign and understand a smartphone contract, not only the young people? Don't forget mealtime means eating–not emails.

Takeaway tip: By charging up the cell phones at night in one common living area, while everyone is sleeping, can reduce the chances of nighttime digital distraction (and everyone will probably get a better night's sleep).

3. Family device-free time: Make a diligent effort to have family time when everyone is disconnected and without their devices. From short trips to the mall to long days at the beach or even weekends without digital interruptions. You design your weekly device-free family time.

Takeaway tip: Many families are bringing back family game night. From Scrabble to Monopoly, you can have old-fashion fun without technology.

4. The coffee break. According to a Screen Education National survey, 69 percent of teens wish they could socialize in person rather than online with their friends. Make it a habit to meet your friends regularly offline to have face-to-face time with them. Encourage your kids to do the same, and remind them when people are in front of you, screens shouldn't be dividing them.

Takeaway tip: Have a phone conference lined up? If it's local, make it a coffee or lunch meeting.

5. It can wait. The statistics are overwhelming. It's almost a weekly basis we will read a headline about someone that is killed or seriously injured from distracted driving. These accidents are completely preventable yet everyday you don't have to look far to witness someone driving distracted. Parents that text and drive are giving permission to their children to do the same, just by their actions. Teach your kids from the moment the car goes on, the device is off. You are the role model. It can wait.

Takeaway tip: If you have to have your phone out while driving, turn-off the volume and turn over the screen.


PEW Research Survey: How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions

Screen Education Nation Survey: Teen Smartphone Addiction

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