Ask Titania: How Do I Explain Our No-Phones-During-Visits Rule?
I want to encourage my kids and their friends to have screen-free time while hanging out at our house. We put them in baskets when kids walk in the door. What’s the best way to communicate this to new visitors and enforce this in our home? How should we handle when friends’ parents want to be able to text and communicate with their children, and vice versa?
No Phones During Visits
Dear No Phones During Visits,
This is a great idea! Creating a tech-free environment can be an awesome way to ensure kids are engaging with each other instead of staying glued to screens.
There are lots of reasons parents like you might decide to do this. For one, kids won’t be tempted to do anything inappropriate online. They could accidentally watch something they shouldn’t or end up messaging strangers. Besides that, phones can keep kids from connecting with each other, which sort of defeats the purpose of the visit. So keeping a device-free visit is a totally understandable route.
But it gets tricky when it comes to other families, especially those with differing opinions. Here are some tips to help you navigate this with the parents!
The Golden Rule: Communication
First things first, you’ll want to clearly communicate this so that no one is caught by surprise. And the sooner the better — we’re talking before they even get in the car to drive to your house, they should know your home is device-free.
But you don’t have to be super serious or formal about it. Just a simple text, email or face-to-face chat to let them know your expectations. Here’s a quick example:
“Hey! Just wanted to give a heads up — we are trying something a little different in an effort to keep our home distraction-free and to avoid any potential issues from kids being online. We’re asking all kids to put their phones in a basket that will be kept in the kitchen while they visit. Of course, they can get their phone at any point if they really need to reach you, and here’s my number so you can reach them quickly.”
Brace for Impact
Be prepared that other families might not be comfortable with your rules and may even call off the visit. And it could be for good reason — some children may have medical needs, anxiety, previous traumatic experiences, or perhaps the parents just feel more comfortable with their child being able to freely communicate with them at any given moment.
Every family is different, and that’s okay. But that’s why communication with the parents is important. Some families, however, may think it’s a great idea and do something similar in their own homes. You could be a trendsetter!
Consider a Compromise
It’s also worth mentioning that the childhoods of today look much different than they did years ago. While devices have the potential to create unhealthy environments, it’s not always the case.
Nowadays, devices are often a primary way that kids connect with one another. For instance, by playing online games while sitting right next to each other, or by creating silly dance videos together.
With this in mind, you may consider meeting them halfway by setting an allotted “tech time” in a family room — with clearly stated rules, of course, regarding what they can do and for how long.
Whatever you decide, the two main things are:
- Clear communication with the families that come over.
- Ensuring the parent/child have ways to reach each other when needed.
Another compromise could be that a child could keep their phone in their pocket or the bookbag — though if the kids are out of sight, they may find themselves grabbing it for a little fun. This could happen especially if there’s only one kid with a device still accessible.
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable hosting experience!
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.