Niece, 11, wants to spend less time on 'phone
October 12, 2018 11:41 PM   Subscribe

11-year-old, spending an average of 2.5 hours a day, mostly watching videos I think and mostly in the evening. She says she's doing it because she's bored and would like to cut down. We thought we would try an activity jar. We fill it with alternative activity ideas and she picks a random one when she's bored.

Two-part question: ideas for activities? She's sporty and musical, likes reading and crafts but struggles to prioritise them over her 'phone. Sensible and quirky ideas both welcome and it might be good to include some productive things she can do with her 'phone too.

Second part: I know this is very likely to fail. Is there anything we can do to make it more successful and do people have any other strategies for reducing children's 'phone use? We know adult modelling is a big issue.
posted by paduasoy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If it’s an iPhone, the new version of iOS has built-in controls to enforce time limits for apps. This can also be set up via parental controls, so the user can’t just override the setting.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:30 AM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Encourage the use of the phone to find activity ideas - especially say Pinterest for crafting inspiration and then post photos of the results to Instagram? Tech is now part of our lives so I think is about using it as a tool to make the most of life as opposed to trying avoid it at one end or being addicted and using as escapism at the other - both extremes give it too much power.
posted by JonB at 2:19 AM on October 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Lock the phone in a time-locked box for a set period of time to make it impossible to use the phone.

French knitting
Crochet amigurumi
Paper cutting
Writing a multi-chapter story and illustrating it (by hand, no technology allowed)
Learn/practice an instrument
Cat’s cradle
Reading (a paper book)
Learning magic tricks
posted by penguin pie at 5:05 AM on October 13, 2018

Following JonB's comment she could be asked to go outside and identify an animal or plant using her phone. Trees would probably be an easy place to start. And for insects and birds something like Inaturalist could be fun.
posted by Botanizer at 6:38 AM on October 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

^Building on this idea, if you have a yard with landscaping, or a nearby park, she could work on identifying every tree, bush, flower, weed, insect, bird in a given area. Photograph it, diagram its location, make a wall chart. That kind of thing.

Learn to sew by hand. Make a stuffed animal, zipped pouch (like a cosmetic bag), mend a tear, hem a dress, sew on buttons.

Musical? Create her own ringtones.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2018

I have worked on putting my electronics away and it's a good goal but challenging. Sometimes it's easier to allow myself to have some netflix going on my laptop while I work on stuff. For me this is probably more about loneliness than boredom.

* call someone specific
* write a post card
* Does she save craft ideas on pinterest? All of those could go in the activity jar
* Coloring
* Collage

Productive things to do with phone:
* dance/yoga/singing tutorials
* Read a book and post a review on goodreads
* Read a chapter of a book and post an update on FB or Instagram.
* Postcrossing
* Watch an educational video
* Research something educational related to her interests (what's an allele? who was George Elliot? where is Guam and what are 5 facts about it?), make a short video about what she learned

For crafts that require specific materials, it might be fun to have those in the jar as "find mystery box #1 under the bathroom sink behind the toilet paper. Open box and follow instructions inside." Have a tutorial printout and any special tools/materials in the box.
posted by bunderful at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2018

Get her to train in delayed gratification. She can watch videos, but only if she does a push-up before each video. Day two: She can watch videos but only if she does two push ups before each video. Find some kind of training that she wants to do and link the two.

Find something she likes to do on the phone that has long pauses in it, preferably something new. For example minecraft has a day/night cycle and night is dangerous and you go into a bolt hole and cower until daylight, but you have to leave the game up for it to progress. Get her to do that instead of the videos, and give her something to do during the periods of dark. I do this with laundry and other periodic chores or things I need to keep coming back to.

Find her a social, high intensity activity that requires her to not be on the phone to do it. Get a friend of hers to come over and have the two of them run an obstacle course, cooperatively and competitively. Get the two of them to do chorale singing together - anything that requires attention and gives her social stimulation.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:51 AM on October 13, 2018

This is one of those things that can be done in passing, 10 minute increments, or a two hour blitz. Put it where the whole family can pass by and match a piece or two. Start with 500 piece, work up to 5000 piece. Helps everyone with:
Spatial Relationships
Cognitive Skills
Problem Solving
Fine Motor Skills

Try geocaching. This is something that can be done alone, with friends, or the family. It's nice to have a gps, but I've found caches using just my phone.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:24 PM on October 13, 2018

Btw, if she or you or anyone else is interested, I think the book How To Break Up With Your Phone has some great suggestions.
posted by gusandrews at 8:53 PM on October 13, 2018

One more productive thing to do on phone - duolingo.
posted by bunderful at 4:57 AM on October 14, 2018

I'm currently running and designing tabletop RPG games now that I have good friends I enjoy being with and playing, so I would highly encourage it if that's possible. D&D 5e is a good one to start off with to run like once a week, for 2.5 to 3 hours, but there are several smaller funnier one-shot games to start off with that are kid-friendly and family-friendly. Honestly I think a lot of my time when I was younger was me trying to stave off boredom and loneliness with endless computer games, and I wish I had friends I could not self-consciously be myself with and do that.
posted by yueliang at 1:18 AM on October 15, 2018

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