None of the cell phone, internet, or TV rules you set to help your children avoid screen addiction will do any good, if you don't do this one thing first.
I’ll admit that some mornings I have an instinctive reaction, which will perhaps seem weird, and probably hypocritical, but I’ll confess it anyway …
Right after my alarm clock goes off, I grab my phone while I’m still in bed and take a quick look at my messages, emails and notifications. I’d be better off if I got up instead, because this habit means I often have to rush to get everyone to school on time. Okay, I know this is nothing unusual; it’s a well-established practice in the daily lives of many millennials.
But—and this is where it gets bad—as soon as I hear cute little steps approaching (since they’re usually running, luckily, I hear them from a distance!), I have a Pavlovian reflex. As quickly as possible, I put my phone on my bedside table (sometimes interrupting an intense discussion in a chat group). There’s no shame in chatting (it would be worse to be caught in the act of reading Twitter!), nor do I fear severe punishment. It’s simply evidence that, deep down, every parent intuitively knows that their example—or in this case, their bad example—has a real impact on their children.
Imposing limits on your children (such as “no smartphone in the bedroom!”) while you yourself are addicted to your phone is a lack of coherence and credibility. If we act that way, there’ll be no escaping the question, “If mom does it, why can’t I?” The secret lies in being an example—a good example, not like me.
So take a shower instead of reading your e-mails when you wake up, put your phone on airplane mode during meals, limit your own use of screens when you’re in the presence of your children, disconnect from your device when you have a real discussion with them, avoid turning on the television as soon as you have a second of spare time … It’s precisely by adopting a healthy use of the screens for yourself that you can inculcate good screen habits into your children, and teach them a healthy lifestyle.