How to Get Your Kids to Look Up From Their Phones and Connect with Others

How to Get Your Kid to Look Up From Their Phone

Let’s be real for a second… When it comes to kids and screen time today, it almost seems like they’re on their phones, computers, or other devices more often than they aren’t, and that seems crazy, right?

I remember growing up and having to spend my free time outside, reading, or hanging out with my friends or parents; we would go on vacations together, build things, and go on adventures. But in today’s world, connecting with our kids seems more difficult than it ever has been with new technological advances and smart devices that have our kids enamored with all-things digital.

And while I’m talking about giving ourselves as parents a digital detox so that we can find happiness in other facets of our lives on Episode 090 of the podcast this week, I wanted to take a little bit of time and speak to the rest of you parents and soon-to-be parents about taking steps to encourage your children to use their phones (or other screens) less in order to bond and make connections with you and their other loved ones more

Because between my own kids who are growing taller and wiser and more independent each and every day, I totally understand how difficult the struggle with screen time can be!

So, let’s get started first with taking the first steps to limit your kids’ screen time usage.




1. Set Firm Limits –

Before we can expect our kids to do their chores, come home by curfew, or even put away their devices… It’s important that we as parents set firm limits for when those expectations kick into gear.

Just as you might set a curfew for your teenager, it’s imperative that you set a limit for how much screen time use you will allow your kids each day… particularly if you want their usage to decrease.

I might suggest disallowing access to phones during homework time, meal times, and other family activities… Or, setting a specific hour in the afternoon or evening when it’s time to “put the screens to bed” for the night and to find an alternative activity to do instead.

I encourage you to try it out with your own family and adjust as necessary… It won’t always be easy to limit screen time use depending on how much your kids need them for homework and the like, so remember to be flexible and keep trying until you find what works best for you and your family.


2. Lead by Example

It’s easy to set limits for our kids… But, in my experience, those limitations only have a lasting effect when we also set them for ourselves, too.

In the case of screen time use, it’s important that we set a great example for our kids! While you create boundaries for your children, I encourage you to keep yourself in check, too. When it comes to meal times, family activities, or other occasions… Remember to get involved in your kids’ lives; give them your undivided attention when the work day has come to an end–let them know you’re present. Turn your phone on silent or vibrate and leave phone face-down during meal times and when you’re spending quality time together.

Now, I understand that setting boundaries and creating some rules for screen time—especially at the beginning—can be a little daunting, especially if you have one or two children that enjoy their computer time and that love to stay in touch with their friends via text. I hear you there!

Once limitations have been set (for your kids and for yourself), it’s always helpful to offer alternative activities in place of screen time. For that, I have just a few ideas to help with screen substitutions for older kids and for younger preschool-aged kids… Check them out below!


3. Offer Alternatives 


Ideas for Older Kids

  • Encourage new activities – Visit your local gym or rec center; ask your kids to choose an after-school class or activity to try. Check out your gym, rec center, and in your community for class offerings!
  •  Turn Up the Music – Encourage listening to music instead of watching television or staring at their screen all of the time. Some studies have shown that some kids actually benefit and are able to remember more when they study while listening to soft music.
  • Volunteer Work – Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community while reminding us to be grateful for the things that we have in front of us (instead of our phones and social media accounts). Search for opportunities in your community and make volunteering something fun and meaningful that you and your kids can do together!

Ideas for Younger Kids

  • Encourage Reading – Take visits to your local library, and read aloud with your little one at home using silly voices for all of the characters… Any way that you can make reading an experience rather than a chore will not only encourage them to keep reading as they get older, but it will help them be comfortable without their screens!
  • Make Things Fun – Do you remember how much fun you had as a kid, playing outside and getting dirty? Go “Old School” with your kiddos by investing in some chalk, paints, bubbles, a sand box, and so on…Any way you can get them away from the television by doing something hands-on and engaging instead will only benefit them in the long-term by encouraging them to seek similar alternatives as they grow older.
  • Take Things Outside – Go for walks, hikes, or to your local playground; build forts, snowmen, or collect leaves… Exploring the outdoors is something that I love to do with my kids year-round, and I would love for you to try it out with your own kids as much as possible!


What are some of the ways that you encourage your children to get off of their phone and other devices when it really matters? Share your experiences and any tips you have in the comments below… And check out Episode 090 of Productivity Paradox where I’m diving into the idea of disconnecting in order to connect with those you love most.




PODCAST: Episode 090: Disconnecting When It’s Time to Connect

VIDEO: Digital Detox: 7 Easy Tips

BLOG: 5 Rules for Using Technology During Work


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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton