Every evening before bed, Al Roker locks his 17-year-old son Nick’s phone in a small safe.
“Just overnight,” Roker, 65, told TODAY Parents.
The topic came up this morning on TODAY while discussing a new study that linked excessive smartphone use to mental distress and suicide risk along adolescents.
Parenting and youth development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa likes how Roker thinks. She recommends that moms and dads charge all devices in their bedroom at night.
“What Al is doing is one of the best things you can do for your child’s mental health,” Gilboa told TODAY Parents. “It’s really healthy for kids to have a break from the potential 24/7 of social interactions. They also need good sleep. And it's really hard to ignore notifications."
For neurotypical high schoolers, however, “a year or two before they leave the house,” is the right time to get them started in trying to limit their nighttime screen time, according to Gilboa.
“They need practice before they go to college,” she explained.
Gilboa noted that there are other ways to promote mental health and emotional well-being in kids.
“In order to keep themselves safe from bullying, violence and isolation, kids have to be able to explain what happened,” Gilboa said. “The best way to strengthen kids is to help them learn to tell their own experiences and to understand the perspective of others.”
It’s also important that young people know how to reach out when they’re struggling and that they learn how to solve problems.
“When your child comes to you with a problem, ask yourself, ‘Is this dangerous to my child?’ And if it isn’t, don’t fix it for them,” Gilboa explained. “Show empathy, and then ask, ‘What do you think you can do?’”