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Five ways to stop your child from spending too long on their new phone

Stopping children from over-using devices requires mutual respect. (Getty Images)
Stopping children from over-using devices requires mutual respect. (Getty Images)

The moment when a child receives their first smartphone has become something of a rite of passage in Britain.

Research by Ofcom suggests that while some children get their first phone in pre-school (17%), most tend to acquire one around the time they go to secondary school with ownership rising from 44% to 91% between the age of nine and 11.

So how can parents ensure that a child uses a new smartphones sensibly – rather than simply 'opening the floodgates' at age 10?

Research in 2019 that analysed multiple studies going back to the dawn of the smartphone era found that roughly one in four young people (23%) used smartphones in an addictive or problematic way.

Yahoo News UK spoke to Danielle Baron, a children's coach and therapist who also has two children of her own. She says the key is to set clear limits, but also to demonstrate that you as a parent use technology sensibly yourself.

Lead by example

It's important to show your children that you can leave technology alone yourself, and offer them your full attention, Baron says.

"This is the most important one – be a role model yourself. When your child interacts with you, give them your full attention and put your phone down. I have just learned this myself. It improves mental health all around. Leave your phone alone for a few hours and see the benefits yourself."

Change their state

If a child is 'getting lost' in their phone, it helps to snap them out of it, and force them to do 'real world' activities where they collaborate with others and get engaged with actual life.

Baron says: "Try to change their state – get them distracted in something else, either collaboratively or in activities where they can engage themselves."

Set time limits

Agreeing time limits with children helps to start the discussion, but it also doesn't hurt to use tech-based time limits to ensure children toe the line.

Both Apple and Google offer ways to manage a child's device – Apple calls it Family Sharing, while Google refers to this as Family Link.

Apple's Guide to Family Sharing can be found here, and Google's guide to Family Link here.

Ensure your child still meets people in the real world

It can be easy to succumb to the temptation to let your child disappear into their phone while you catch up with the admin, Baron says.

"As a busy parent – I've been there – it's all too easy to do this," she says. "However, encouraging social interaction is crucial. Find ways to organise meet-ups with other children or activities at a centre, which can be beneficial while you catch up with work and household administration on your own technology."

Discuss device rules with them

Children may not like rules per se, but they actually enjoy the stability and safety they provide, Baron says.

But it's key to ensure that the rules are presented in the right way, she adds, and ensure that children feel they are involved in the discussion. "Set rules collaboratively in a reasonable manner so children have some autonomy."

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