When giving workshops to parents, one of the most common questions that I am asked is what to do about kids who can’t separate themselves from their cell phones during homework time.
I’ve heard all the teen excuses:
“I need my phone to listen to music while I do my homework”
“I need it to know the time”
“I need my cell phone because I need to use the calculator”
“I need to be able to ask my friends what page we had for homework”
“I need it so I can follow my schedule and use the timers and reminders”
“This phone is my private property. It belongs to me. You can’t take it away!”
And the list goes on…
My response to these families is always the same: cell phones and homework should be separated. In fact, if families are looking for ways to get homework done more quickly and completely, then the cell phone (and other distractions, such as laptops and tablets) should be removed entirely. Being able to concentrate and get through a list of tasks is extremely difficult if your phone is constantly interrupting you with text messages from friends, and Facebook/Twitter updates.
I suggest the use of a basket to collect cell phones and other electronic distractions during homework time. You are not ‘taking them away’ per se, but rather giving them a temporary new home for an hour or two per day. Your teen will likely not be on board for this idea, and will use at least one of the excuses above in order to try to keep their phone with them.
Let’s look at how to address these possible excuses:
I need my phone to listen to music while I do my homework– if your child listens to music while doing homework, either bring out the oldtimer’s radio, or get your child a device like an ipod nano, without a wireless internet connection.
I need it to know the time—put out a clock or get your child a watch (NOT the new iwatch!)
I need my cell phone because I need to use the calculator—regular calculators are still available for purchase everywhere, even at the dollar store.
I need to be able to ask my friends what page we had for homework—help your child get into a routine of writing their homework down in their agenda.
I need it so I can follow my schedule and use the timers and reminders—when planning homework time, use paper versions of checklists. If your child requires a time, use a kitchen timer or a stopwatch.
This phone is my private property. It belongs to me. You can’t take it away—don’t be scared to put your foot down! After all, you are the parent, you are in charge, and most likely, you are the one who purchased the phone, therefore it actually belongs to you!