Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Four simple steps to reducing screen time in your home and family.
Is your teen addicted to their phone?
As a youth mentor, whenever I ask teens, "What's the one thing that's consuming your time and keeping you from reaching your potential?" -- they usually tell me,
"My phone" or "Video games."
Teenagers recognize it is a problem in their life.
But it's a tough balance.
I love technology. It helps me to connect, to influence others, to reach more people, to build my business, to teach online classes to amazing youth around the world. There are amazing resources, online classes, and so much more.
Technology is a great tool. But we can also become a slave to it if we're not careful.
Technology gives us the ability to connect with people all over the world. But the danger is that it makes it easier for us to DISconnect with people in our own home.
It also can prevent you from connecting with your purpose, passion, and life mission. Getting lost in your virtual life keeps you from fully living your real life!
We can't just go through life spending all of our time on our phones and gadgets!
So how can we help our teens (and ourselves) break those addictions and make sure we've got a healthy relationship with your devices?
Here are some things I've seen work with the youth and parents I mentor:
1. Be willing to lead the way
If you want to teach and preach but not set the example, your teen is not likely to listen.
Because if you went to your teen right now and said, "Hey! Stop spending so much time on your phone!" -- how's that going to go over?
It's not. You have to try 'replacement therapy' -- they need something bigger, something better, something more exciting than what they can find on their phone. They need a vision, a purpose, a plan.
But in order to inspire it in them, it has to start with YOU!
YOU have to be willing to take action on the following steps.
2. Have a BIG dream
Most people escape to their phones because their own life is boring. Teens especially need something in their life that challenges them and makes them feel ALIVE!
You need something GREAT to work on -- something D.U.M.B. (Demanding, Unrealistic, Meaningful, and BOLD!)
Pick a one year period and identify something BIG to go after. It could be:
Read a book a week (or really go after it and read TWO books a week)
Do 100 consecutive pushups
Race in a triathlon, marathon, or ULTRA marathon!
Study or memorize something BIG
Become fluent in another language by the end of the year
Travel somewhere you've always wanted to go
Climb Mt. Fuji in Japan or Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
The point is to pick something big and exciting, something that gets you out of bed in the morning and you can't think about anything else because you want to do this SO bad!
Find that thing that just lights you on fire!
It's going to require a lot of time, attention, and focus to achieve goals this big.
3. Set the example and ask Your teen to hold YOU Accountable
Now that you have some big dreams in mind, now you can start a conversation with your teen.
With sincere enthusiasm and excitement, you can tell them about the goals you want to accomplish in the next year.
Then you tell them how you can't waste any time on your phone or other devices if you're going to reach your goals, and you ask,
"Will you help me? Will you help me to not waste time or get distracted? Will you help me to stay on track?"
Now you've suddenly enlisted your teen in your success. And you've done something else very important -- you've become a mentor and example.
4. Ask what gets them excited
Maybe right then is the right time, or maybe you wait until you've been working on your goals awhile, but eventually you ask your teen,
"What gets you excited? What big goal or dream do you want to achieve?"
As the parent, you need to be willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Your teen needs to know that you will support them, no matter how big or scary or crazy their dream seems.
You're not going to shut it down! You're not going to tell them to 'be realistic'. You're going to help them find a way to achieve it.
Because if you shut it down, then you're basically saying,
"The things you want out of life aren't really achievable, so you might as well just get lost in your phone or video game."
That's the message we're really sending to youth. They want and need something challenging, daring, and bold in their life. But since they can't find it and most people won't or don't tell them it's possible, they turn to the imaginary, virtual world of their screens where they can at least live a fantasy life.
So be willing to spend the money and make the sacrifice to help them reach their goals.
If they learn French you will take them to France. If you learn Spanish we'll go to Costa Rica (where I am now Get in shape and we can go to an amazing triathlon in a cool country or a half marathon on the Great Wall of China.
Give them the WHY -- a great BIG vision of WHY they shouldn't be wasting time on social media or in a virtual world when there's a world out there waiting to be experienced!
5. Ask your teen to set their own standards and stick by them
Once they have a big WHY, and they know they'll have your support (because you are doing it too), now all you have to do is ask THEM to set their own standards.
Ask them to decide how often they will check their phone, or social media, or play a video game. Ask them to decide if that will happen before OR after they've worked on accomplishing their BIG goal.
Then you no longer need to nag or complain. With a vision of WHY and WHAT else they're replacing it with, they start to manage themselves -- which is the beginning to becoming an adult who can manage their own life.
Our lives become more meaningful when we have a big, exciting, meaningful goal or purpose that challenges us and makes us feel alive!
You need it! Your teens need it!
And when you live your real life, then your addiction to your virtual life becomes unnecessary and insignificant.