Ask the Experts

Q: “How Can I Help My Son Resist the Temptations of His Phone?”

Screen time sneaks into homework time when teens with ADHD are distracted by text messages, apps, and music. Here’s how to help.

Teenage student studying using smart phone and notebook sitting on the sofa at home

Q: “My son often has homework assignments in a workbook. He uses his phone to listen to music, so he doesn’t get distracted by the computer. But the phone is now a distraction. I see him on his texts or his million apps! He wastes so much time scrolling and then loses all track of time. The only saving grace is he’s as frustrated about this as I am. Do you have any suggestions other than taking away the phone?” – TotallyTechFrustrated

Hi TotallyTechFrustrated:

First, I have to give your son props for taking proactive steps to stay off his computer. That’s a great way to start trying to eliminate distractions. But you’re right; it’s not foolproof.

No matter what system we put in place, we can still find ourselves mindlessly scrolling when we’re meant to be working. Here are a few concrete suggestions to help.

[Click to Read: “How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?”]

  • Turn off push notifications. Updating this simple setting or putting the phone in Do Not Disturb mode for even a few hours every day will eliminate that immediate distraction of the yellow Snapchat ghost or the iMessage bubble popping up constantly. If you don’t know the notification is there, you’re less likely to search for it.
  • Bury messages and social media apps on your phone. I once had a student who had all of her social media apps ungrouped, front and center on the first page of her iPhone. This made it incredibly tempting to check all of them every time she unlocked her phone. What to do instead? Drag Instagram, TikTok, and all the others to the last page and drop them all in a folder together. In other words, make it as difficult as possible to access the biggest distractions!
  • Download music offline. If your son downloads his music to listen to it off-line, he can then put his phone on airplane mode until his work is completed. If he’s using Apple Music or Spotify he should still be able to listen to his study playlists (which I always recommend students make). Then turn off Wi-Fi and data for a few hours while he gets into deep workflow.
  • Hide the phone! When our phones are sitting out, we have to work twice as hard to resist the temptation to use them! When we hide them, that enticement or “pull” evaporates. Assuming he has wireless earphones, have him zip his phone into a pocket inside his backpack or place it under the pillow or in the back of his closet — close enough to transmit music but nowhere he’d be tempted to check it.
  • Get off the grid. Simply put, his phone needs to be in airplane mode. If there’s no way to reach someone or check social media, he’ll eliminate the distractions and put the focus back on his work.

I hope you will also check out my newest book, How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide To Getting Stuff Done (#CommissionsEarned), where I dive deep into helping students eliminate distractions.

Good Luck!

Screen Time Limitations: Next Steps

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