Help Your Teen Put Down The Phone…One Hour At A Time!

teens-textingIs your teen constantly on their phone? If they look up from their phone screen, is it only to watch TV or move to a computer? Ever wonder how many hours a teen spends looking at a screen of some kind?


(And that doesn’t count any of the time they are in school)

On any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment, according to the report by Common a nonprofit focused Sense Media.

That is more hours than the average teen spends sleeping and eating combined.

That is more hours than a teen is in school!

That is more hours in a day than a teen spends with their parents or in any school related activity or sport.

Read the full report and interesting statistics here:

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What can we as parents and educators do about it?

It would be fantastic to limit the time your teen spends on a device. No devices until a certain time or after a certain time. But you may be thinking that’s impossible, or you are not going to change that pattern now. Maybe it’s not a battle you are willing to fight.

Here are 6 simple ways to teach your teen to put it down one hour at a time!

  1. Sign them up for a class. Anything! Check the recreation department, the local art studio, anything you can find that doesn’t have to do with technology! Flower arranging, cake decorating, ukulele lessons, bowling league are all possibilities. Find something they are remotely interested in doing and make that an expectation and requirement for even owning the device.
  2. Do nothing for an hour. Pick an hour one night that everyone has to shut off all devices. Including you! What are you going to do? No one knows. That’s the point. Wander around. Feel the longing to have your phone back in your hand, but don’t touch it for an hour that night. Maybe someone will come up with an idea. It is a great chance to think. Clear your minds and stop “doing” whatever it is you are all doing on your device. Do nothing. Maybe some conversation will be sparked. Maybe an interaction will be offered. Maybe a game will be initiated.
  3. Give them jobs to do. If they have an hour’s worth of work to do before they can sit and look at a device, that’s one less hour they are contributing to the statics of 9 HOURS a Day on a device! I can guarantee they won’t like this and will try to convince you that they have homework to do and they are way too busy. But the statistics say they are way to busy spending 9 HOURS a day on a device and that doesn’t even include homework time. They are not too busy to do an hour’s worth of chores. And I bet you could come up with an hour’s worth of jobs that would help you get a few minutes back in your day (hopefully to come up with a class these teenagers can take or to sit and think without touching your device)!
  4. Go outside. Easier said than done. The facts that support the benefits of time outdoors as a part of managing mental health, staying fit and active and even having a healthy family dynamic are staggering. Get outside. It’s good for you and your teenager! Sign up for a night hike in the state parks. Go to a local ski or sledding hill. Walk the dog around the block! Make them shovel the sidewalk for you and the neighbor! Every minute you get those teenagers outside is a minute they are off their device.
  5. Plan a party. What teenagers doesn’t love having a few friends over? Tell them they can have the sleepover or party or movie night or whatever it is, but give them a piece of paper and a pencil and tell them it all has to be planned the old fashioned way. No text invites. No Pinterest. No group chats. Write out the food list. Write out the names of people they want to invite. Write out or draw a picture of the layout of the room and where everyone will sleep. Allow them to plan. Allow them to think. Allow them to be creative.
  6. Plan a project you and your teen can do together. Cook something interesting and different, clean your closet or a drawer, read a book and talk about it when you are both done, write a letter to your mom and their grandma, dig out the old photo album and talk about a funny baby story. Find one small task and get your teen in the habit of putting down their phone for a short time and engage in something completely free of a device as often as you can!




Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. She now has the unique pleasure of raising three teenagers of her own!  Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

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