The summer cell phone and screen time situation — FranklyStein


ScreenThis weekend, all the moms I came in contact with were lamenting the same thing — cell phones.

It was interesting how often the subject came up. School has been out a few weeks and the doldrums of summer have set in. So now all kids are spending too much time on their smartphones, iPods, iPads or game systems, and the moms are not happy.

Luckily, my kids’ schedules are pretty tight this summer, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t glued to their screens when they are home. My youngest is the only one I attempt to monitor, but it’s not really working. He’s allowed two hours a day of screen time but he’s logging more. It’s so hard to monitor him because I’m busy and he’s sneaky.

I’m not worried about my other kids as much, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t having problems. My older son has become a data hog. In the past two months, he’s used up more than double the amount of data as anyone else in the family. He put us over our limit last month and we are teetering on the edge again this month. Currently he’s banned from data until the next cycle starts, but his usage is still creeping up.

I had several conversations with friends this weekend about how much things have changed not only from when we were kids, but even in the past few years. One friend confessed to checking up on her son’s texts but compared it to her parents listening in on her phone calls when she was a teen. She doesn’t really learn much by checking his texts, however, since he’s on snapchat most of the time anyway, she admitted.

This generation of teens is so used to instantaneous information and entertainment that they have no patience. They are constantly on their phones even when hanging out with friends. They can’t just be in the moment.

And truth be told, it’s not just the kids. I admit, I’m addicted to my screen and I’d say my husband is too. When we sit on the porch after dinner these days, we both have our phones nearby. When there’s a lull in the conversation, instead of just sitting in companionable silence, we both tend to reach for our phones. It’s a little disturbing. I told a friend the other day that our phones and our iPads could be killing our marriages.

It’s going to take a huge effort to put the phones away. To put them away when we are sitting with family. To ban them from the table at dinner. To focus on friends, not screens in social settings. The change needs to start with us. If we can’t set these limits on ourselves, there’s no way we can set them on our kids.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.