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How to talk to your kids about their phone and internet use

How to talk to your kids about their phone and internet use

In an ideal world, you’d have ‘the talk’ and your kids would understand the concepts of online safety and phone addiction and you’d all live happily ever after.

But we’re not living in a utopia. Kids (and many parents) are glued to their screens, photos are uploaded, liked, commented on, and text notifications ping through like microwave popcorn. So how do you talk to your kids about their online and phone habits without starting WW3?

Start early

These days, most kids know their way around a smartphone before they can talk, and around 81% of Australian parents say their preschool-aged children use the internet. So with this in mind, it’s helpful to talk to your kids about how they’re using their phones, online safety and setting a few ground rules before they get their first phone.

Work through some rules together…

When your child gets their first phone, or if they’re getting into some not-so-good habits with their current phone, establish a few rules for everyone in the house to follow – including you. Work together on a plan, like establishing some phone-free zones in the house, charging phones overnight in the kitchen (and out of bedrooms), or having a ‘no phones after 8pm’ rule.

Studies have shown that phones in bedrooms – even if they’re not in use – impact sleep pretty dramatically, and can cause stress, irritability, and lack of focus.

… and remain flexible

There’ll be times when your child might ‘need’ to urgently text their BFF after hours – pick your battles here. Sometimes it’s simpler to bend the rules than stick to your guns.

An alarming suggestion

The biggest excuse you’ll get when you implement a phone-free bedroom rule is the ol’ “How will I wake up in time for school without my alarm???” follow by a huge eye roll. Counter this by getting your child a cheap alarm clock, or waking them up yourself.

Don’t make tech out to be the bad guy

Advancements in technology are awesome. We can stay connected with friends on the other side of the world or down the street, get instant answers to tricky questions (great for homework and assignments), and play Harry Styles, BTS and Taylor Swift at the push of a button.

But remember to explain to your kids how easy it can be to fall into a social media hole, leading them to miss out on real things happening in real life.

Talk, don’t tell

When you see your child glued to their phone for several hours a day, don’t tell them to put it away or turn it off – talk to them. Start an honest dialogue with them about what it is they’re seeing or doing on their phone that makes them feel good. Let them know about how you use your phone, and how connected you can feel to it at times. Use these discussions to try to instil some good habits.

Be a good role model

Remember that kids mirror what they see. If you’re constantly on your phone, don’t be surprised if they follow suit. You need to demonstrate the behaviours you want them to display.

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