Six Things Teens Can (And Should) Do Besides Looking at Their Phones

I feel lucky to have grown up at a time when there were no cell phones. I specifically remember when I got my first smartphone and my then-husband complained that I never answered his texts or calls.

Truthfully my phone spent its days in my purse. I hadn’t figured out how to turn the volume up on it and stopping to check it or carrying it around with me were foreign concepts.

Teens with pets can spend time with them instead of their phones. (Twenty20 @domandchris)

When I started to blog I became addicted to my phone

Then, after a few years, I began to blog and I discovered Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. And yes, like everyone else I became addicted to my phone. I noticed a change in my moods. I felt distracted and anxious all the time. It was so strange to have so much at my fingertips in an instant and I began to lose hours of my life and my sleep to that phone.

This is the world our teens are living in. They have no gauge for comparison so they don’t know what it feels like to wait for the JCPenny catalog to come in the mail. They can watch an entire series without having to wait for the next episode. And there’s no waiting to use a landline or to see someone in person to connect. They can connect with their friends wherever and whenever they want.

My kids are sick of me blaming their phones for their anxiety and sad moods. They hate when I take them away because they’ve missed schoolwork or have stayed in their rooms all day staring at a tiny screen — something I’ll never understand.

I try to make sure my teens put away their phones

I’ve come to realize that it’s up to me to make sure they take time away from their phones. Lord knows they aren’t going to do it on their own and I can’t tell you how many times their moods have perked up (after the anger has worn off) when they were phone-free.

When they were going to school full time, at least I knew they weren’t on their devices in school. But now that they are home all the time, here are some things we’ve been doing to get them away from those damn phones.

Oh, and a little tip that has worked for me: I no longer lecture or tell them all the bad things their phones are doing. I try and give them experiences instead so they can see for themselves what it feels like to live outside their phones.

Six things teens can do without phones

1. Spend time with pets

This has been a lifesaver lately. We have two ducks that we got right after COVID hit. I was hesitant at first but it has been the best thing for my kids. They willingly leave their phones and spend time with their feathered friends. At their dad’s house, they have two dogs and a cat to play with. Yes, pets are a lot of work but they definitely bring people together.

2. Cook together

The other day, my son wanted cookies. I went out and got the ingredients and told him I was ready to make them and I’d love his help. I didn’t say, “Put down your phone and make these if you want them.” I did say, “I’d love to make these with you.”

3. Go for a drive

Every week when I go to the grocery store my kids will come with me and wait in the car. I promise to stop at Starbucks or another favorite place of theirs to get a snack if they leave their phones at home. While I go in and stock up on food, they sit in the car eating, drinking, and talking.

4. Do chores

All my kids have chores. They don’t like them but at the end of the day hard work feels good. It forces them to put down their phones and feel a sense of accomplishment. Even if it only takes a few minutes to take the trash cans out, or fold the laundry it’s a good reason to put down their phones and have a break. Chores are good for kids for many reasons and cell-free time is just one of them.

5. Eat dinner together

Even if I go get take out, or get hit the drive-thru and eat in the car there’s a no-phone rule. Most families have the no phone rule at the dinner table but let’s face it, we don’t all make dinner every night.

Why not make the no phone rule a policy whenever you are eating, even if it’s outside at McDonald’s. When I first suggested this, my kids weren’t happy. I reminded them that it was a small price to pay for a cheeseburger, large fries, and a shake.

6. Decorate

Maybe your kids aren’t really into decorating, but it’s funny what happens when I start moving around furniture and asking for their opinions. They really do like to have a say and enjoy when things look different.

Tapestries and LED lights are all the rage in teenager’s rooms right now. I told my kiddos to pick out a few things they may want in their rooms so they could decorate over winter break. It led to painting a few walls which ended up being a fun afternoon activity we could do together.

I realize that getting them to put their phones away will probably be a bit of a fight until they don’t live with me any longer. And once they see how they feel when they are not on their phone all the time, hopefully they will start doing these things on their own without my prompting. We can always hope, right?

More to Read:

Seven Activities Your Family Can Do Other Than Family Movie Night

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

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