The little boy who used to beg you to take him to the park every afternoon or the sweet young girl who used to love riding bikes with you around the neighborhood is now a teenager who is, for all practical purposes, addicted to technology.
As a parent, you probably feel like you see more of the top of your teen’s head than his or her face, and you worry that the only part of your child’s body that gets a regular workout are the thumbs.
Fortunately, with the right combination of encouragement, collaboration and solid role modeling, it is possible to get your teenager off the couch, off the phone, and back outside for some much-needed fresh air and exercise. For example, check out these tips:
Take Note of Your Own Phone Habits
Even if they seem like they are ignoring you most of the time, teenagers are definitely watching what you are doing. If you are constantly checking your emails or Facebook updates while sitting at a restaurant with your family, your son or daughter is more likely to follow suit. As Common Sense Media notes, as a parent, you have to model the manners and behaviors that you want to see in your teens. Before you start asking your teens to put their phones down and get outside, do the same. Stop texting during dinner, start making an effort to get regular exercise and see if you can go for a day or two without playing Candy Crush—your teens will be impressed, and more likely to do the same.
Brainstorm Fun Things to Do Together
When kids morph into independent teens, parents might feel like they no longer know what these quickly-growing young adults like to do—outside of texting their friends. Tell your teen that you’d like to spend more time together, and then ask your teen for ideas and also brainstorm some activities that you can try. For example, you could strap on your dusty old roller blades and see who can zip around the neighborhood the fastest, or you can go bowling one afternoon after school. Head to a paint ball facility and have a blast zapping each other with paint balls, or go to the local Go Kart track and race your budding driver for a few laps.
You can also set up old fashioned games in the backyard and encourage your teen to invite friends over for some fun games of badminton or lawn bowling. If you have a backyard pool, ask your teen to go online with you and pick out a new pool game; for example, In The Swim sells a great in-ground pool volleyball game that is perfect for friendly competitions among family and teen friends. By making your teen part of the decision making process, it will encourage him or her to be part of the action.
Encourage Exercise with Tech Rewards
If your teen is reluctant to swap text time for a brisk walk with the dog, you may have to play parental hardball. After all, you are the boss and you can determine just how much screen time your teen is getting on a daily basis. Up the ante a bit and tell your teen that in order to use his phone, he will have to earn it with some physical activity. Every minute that he spends doing something physical outdoors can be traded equally for phone time. Or, tell your daughter that she can get bonus screen time minutes by walking to the store with her friends for a snack, or taking her little brother to the park for an hour.