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Our #1 rule for our kids’ mobile use

Our #1 rule for our kids’ mobile use

This is a really simple phone rule for kids, but it surprises me how many families don’t make it mandatory. Let me tell you, it’s non-negotiable at our place. If my kids ever break this rule, their phones get confiscated immediately. It’s super-simple:

Turn off phone notifications.

A study in the US by Deloitte found that on average people check their phone 46 times a day, rising to 74 times a day for 18-24 year olds. No wonder we are concerned about our kids being distracted by technology. Most kids’ devices ping, buzz, toot and flash all day long. 

Roblox: Robbie wants you to play Roblox.

QuizUp: It’s been a long time since you’ve played QuizUp.

Drift: New message in your conversation with Allison.

MyFitnessPal: You haven’t logged your breakfast today.

FitBit: It’s almost time for bed.

Headspace: Get some Headspace. (Um, does Headspace not see the irony of having push notifications?)

Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, buzz. It’s really hard to focus on something else when your phone is begging for attention like a stray dog begs for food. Feed me! FEEEEED ME!!

A non-negotiable rule for our kids - turn off phone notifications

Silencing the noise

Push notifications are loud, attention-seeking and carefully created to be as distracting as possible. Their sole purpose is to get you to stop what you’re doing and interact with their app. Since when did we allow our most valuable asset to be controlled by an app? Our time is far too precious for that.

I’ve turned off most notifications on my phone, and I expect the same from my kids.

When you turn off phone notifications, a lot of the distraction goes away. Instead of some random app algorithm deciding you should be paying the app attention, you take back control and decide when you’ll check the app.

It’s not surprise that companies use push notifications to lure people into their product. What is a surprise is that so many of us don’t simply switch them off. One little slide of a button and you’ve silenced them forever.

Turn phone notifications off - so important for our kids

But what if I miss something important?

I can hear the kids screeching hysterically from here. And, let’s face it, nobody screeches quite as hysterically as a teen whose phone usage is being changed. FEEEEED ME!!

A kid is always going to check their phone multiple times a day – their life is on there. We get it. What the turn off phone notifications rule does is allow them to set the agenda on when they will look at their phone. They get to take back control of their time.

Of course, they can still check aaaaall the apps, but they won’t constantly have their attention diverted to their phone. Since when did the app decide what’s we think is best stuff anyway? Get into the habit of checking messages and apps at the same time each hour or so (or maybe half an hour – an hour is sooooo loooooong).

A kid is always going to check their phone multiple times a day – their life is on there. We get it.

But muuuuuummmmm…

Kids’ fear of missing out is huge and we need to help them discover that they won’t be missing out on anything important. They still get to see all their messages. They still get to look at the new things their favourite app is spitting out. Just on their terms, not the apps’.

You can choose to have alerts on for some apps, but not others. For example, Find iPhone is a good one to keep on – you want that loud ping when you need it. Decide which apps are important enough to be distracting – Messages, Phone, that kind of thing. All other sounds go off. Whether banners are still displayed is up for negotiation, but it’s generally a no from me. I’ve turned off most alerts on my phone, and I expect the same from my kids.

You might need this: 20+ tips for raising teens (and fiesty tweens)


Here’s how to turn off phone notifications

Turn off phone notifications step 1

Click on ‘Settings’.

Turn off phone notifications step 2

Click on ‘Notifications’.

Turn off phone notifications step 3

Click on each app with notifications switched on.


Turn off phone notifications step 4

Slide the green slider to the left. As you can see from this screen, you can also choose to only have banners, no sound. Or not show notifications on lock screen. It’s up to you. For me, they are all off.

Turn off phone notifications step 5

Notifications are all off for this app.

Turn off phone notifications step 6

Schedule Do Not Disturb

If you decide that you don’t want to make it mandatory to turn phone notifications off after all, consider turning them off between certain times. You can use the Do Not Disturb tool to do this.

Turn off phone notifications - Do Not Disturb step 1

‘Do Not Disturb’ is in ‘Settings’, just below ‘Notifications’.

Turn off phone notifications - Do Not Disturb

Set up a scheduled time for all notifications to be turned off. You can customise what happens when phone is in ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.

These are really good habits for kids to get into. We want to raise them to know that they are in charge of the technology they use, not the other way around.

We also want them to remember that their time is valuable. They get to decide what is important to them in any given moment, not some random app. 

Would your kids willingly turn off phone notifications?

Feature image by Paul Hanaoka; 2 by Boudewijn Huysmans


Saturday 30th of March 2019

Awesome, awesome advice Bron! We aren't in the phone stage as yet but it does loom in my mind and I need allll the tips.


Wednesday 27th of March 2019

A simple, no brainer solution

Bron Maxabella

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

I couldn't focus one bit if I allowed notifications. So there's no way my kids could!

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