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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

Dear Tammy,

My son is 12 years old, and attends a school where filtered phones are permitted. Unfortunately, he seems to be totally addicted, and spends hours every night in his room using the phone.
Do you have any advice
to offer?


Phone-Addicted Child

Dear Phone-Addicted,

Unfortunately, you are not alone. Many parents are reporting that they do not know how to deal with their children’s phone addictions. I will present you with a two-fold approach: 1) See to it that your relationship with your child and your home is so fulfilling to him that he is not looking for more excitement or satisfaction elsewhere, and 2) Don’t be afraid to set loving limits.

The root of a technology addiction (or any addiction for that matter) is an empty feeling inside. All human beings were created with a deep-seated need to connect with our Creator, and when that need is not fulfilled, we look for fulfillment in any place we can find it. In order to help our children feel fulfilled it is our responsibility to connect with them as parents. Since we are the authority figures in their childhoods, the way they view us is how they will learn to view Hashem in their adult lives. So, if they see us as warm, loving, and consistent, they will see their Creator as such and will feel a positive connection to Him.
If they see us as busy and angry, they will relate to their Creator as busy and angry, and run far away from Him, seeking other sources of fulfillment. Consequently, I believe that there is a strong correlation between a child’s relationship with his or her parents and the child’s level of fulfillment.

Many people are afraid to come across as controlling when they set limits with their children’s phones. As long as your relationship with your child is in check, he or she will accept your loving limits, as well as if you were setting any limit in their lives. When you take your child to get vaccinations, though they may be unpleasant, your child sees you acting confidently and accepts that you are doing this for his or her good. The message is, "I care about you so I will be setting the following limit.” Be warm and confident.

You wouldn’t allow your child to come in contact with evil people in person OR by phone! Countless stories have been told of innocent children who were hurt through internet use. Our children need to see that we set limits and stand our ground, we don't just mouth our beliefs, we live by them. You should approach this gracefully, without complaining, "I don't know why the rabbi/school makes us..." but rather, "We are so lucky to have rabbis/people who know how to guide us in this area!"

How to Connect with Your Children

1   Create an atmosphere that shows your children you enjoy their company. Smile often at them. Spend quality time with them without any distractions. Put your phones away when you are interacting with them.

2             When your kids make mistakes, show them that you believe they always have good intentions. Even we adults feel better spending time with people who we know are thinking that we are trying our best. If you need to confront them about something, wait till the next day. Do not use judgmental language like, 'Why did you.....?” or "You should have........" Instead say, “I am sure you didn’t mean to………..” (using a very soft voice).