Q: My 12-year-old is constantly talking on the phone with his friends. I believe we should limit his phone time, but my spouse does not agree with me. Who's right?
A: "In a way, you both are," says Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D., a Los Angeles, CA-based psychologist. "Too much phone time can cut into a preteen's other commitments," she explains. "But setting limits on the amount of time your child can spend on the phone may cause resentment and conflict between you two.
"Instead, start a dialogue on proper phone use and encourage your child to cut down on his," says Dr. Kuchenbecker. Try saying, "I've noticed that you spend lots of time on the phone, and I'm wondering if that makes it harder for you to get your homework done or to do other things you enjoy, like riding your bike."
Whether or not your son agrees, try to get him to think about his schedule. Say, "When my day is tight, I have to juggle things to get everything to fit. You may need to spend less time on the phone so you have time for other things. Think about it, and see what you can do to balance your schedule better this week."
"You won't see an overnight change," warns Dr. Kuchenbecker. "It usually takes two or three weeks of revisiting the topic before you'll notice a difference in behavior. But the important thing is to help your child feel like he's the decision maker and you're simply a good consultant."
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