Best Family-Friendly Airlines, According to Family Travel Experts

Is booking a flight for your family vacation a dreaded activity? As you peruse the available options, do you wonder which are the best family-friendly airlines? Are they worth the extra money over budget-friendly flights? What airlines offer the best service for families? Are there any airlines that really welcome children? And which airlines do the experts choose to fly?

EVA Air's Hello Kitty plane (Courtesy EVA Air)

EVA Air’s Hello Kitty plane (Courtesy EVA Air)

With these questions in mind, I reached out to a few well-known family travel bloggers and editors, all frequent travelers, to get their insight on the best airlines—both domestic and international—for families. The answers speak for themselves; service matters and a few kid-friendly perks are much appreciated.

Choose these family-friendly airlines for your next vacation.

 

Best Family-Friendly Airlines, Budget

Southwest Airlines

“Although frequent flyers avoid Southwest because of the airline’s lack of first class seating and ‘cattle call’ boarding, the airline has become a favorite for family travel,” explains Leslie Harvey, mom of two and the writer behind Trips with Tykes. “Its unique rules cut families a break in an U.S. airline industry known for charging extra for everything. On Southwest, families with children ages 6 and under can board early in the open boarding process, making it easy to find seats together- without extra seat assignment fees. Southwest is the only major U.S. airline that does not charge fees for the first two checked bags, a money saving perk for families.”

This Texas based carrier also does not charge change fees, which gives family travelers flexibility, making it one of the best family-friendly airlines when a sick child derails trip plans. The addition of the airline’s quirky corporate culture and friendly staff bring fun back to flying.

 

Best Family-Friendly Airlines, Mid-Range

EVA Air

MiniTime editor and frequent flyer Michelle Rae swears by the Taipei-based airline for her trip to Asia. “EVA Air has to be one of the best airlines to fly to Asia with. They do a fantastic job combining affordability with comfort, quality amenities, and excellent service, making those long haul flights a lot more tolerable. For such an affordable airline, their flight crew are very attentive and accommodating, which is great help to parents traveling with small kids, and the amenities are top notch. There’s a great selection of complimentary movies and games to entertain the kids, delicious food that even the pickiest eaters will love, and even toiletries like dental kits, eye masks and face mist for added comfort. Families will find the airline’s award-winning Elite Class an excellent choice—extra space for the kids and additional amenities for the parents. And both kids and adults will certainly get a kick out of their Sanrio jet, which boast Sanrio character-themed features. I recently took the Hello Kitty Shining Star jet, now currently based in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, flight to Taipei in Elite Class, and it was the most fun, comfortable AND luxurious flight I’ve had in Economy. It certainly brought out the pampered child in me.”

Eva Air is most well known for their fun Hello Kitty Jets which fly routes within Asia, as well as to Paris, Chicago, and Houston. Promising 5-star service from the ground up, Eva Air has topped the ‘Youngsters’ Favorite Brands Survey and is consistently ranked as one of the World’s Top 20 Safest Airlines.

Alaska Airlines

Seattleite Kimberly Tate, publisher of StuffedSuitcase.com and author of Wanderlist, chooses Alaska Airlines as “one of my favorite airlines to fly, especially with my daughters. They always had a great Disney coloring book and crayons available for the kids. Inflight entertainment is perfect for family travel, featuring a Kids & Family section on their free entertainment listings. A fabulous Kids’ snack box is available for purchase with fun treats like Pirate’s Booty and WikiStix. Kids can also score a pair of wings to remember their flight- real metal pins, not just stickers. Two final perks that make me love Alaska Airlines for families is their priority boarding for families with kids under 2, and their wonderful flight crews who might even be able to give your kiddos a chance to peek into the flight deck.”

Based in Washington state, Alaska Airlines has long been known for flights along the West Coast and great deals to Hawaii. With more gateways to the Midwest and East Coast being added in 2017, and the benefit of no baggage fee for car seats and strollers, expect to see Alaska Air ranking high among best family-friendly airlines.

 

Best Family-Friendly Airlines, Luxury

Cathay Pacific

As an expat in Hong Kong, luxury travel writer Katie Dillion of LaJolla Mom was fortunate to have Cathay Pacific as her home airline. “I often traveled alone as a new mother from Hong Kong to see family in the United States. Traveling with a small baby or toddler on a plane isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I found the flight attendants particularly helpful and kind. Babies receive a helpful diaper amenity pack, which I have had to use several times inflight when my own stash proved insufficient. Older kids receive an adorable kids’ pack with stickers, small games and little pages to color and more. Kid’s meals, served both on long and short haul flights, include fun straws and kid-friendly food. In-flight entertainment is quite robust for all ages featuring an enormous selection of Disney programming in addition to lots of kid-friendly movies.”

Based in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific delivers passenger and cargo service to 180 destinations in 44 countries. A multi-award winning company often listed among best in service, cleanliness, and in-flight entertainment, you’ll find Cathay Pacific ranked among best family-friendly airlines across the globe.

Lufthansa

“Lufthansa makes families feel welcomed immediately,” says Anne Bell, publisher of Kids’ Travel Books. “It starts during the planning process and continues through to the actual flight and beyond. Sign kids up for JetKids, Lufthansa’s kid’s frequent flyer program. Then let them check out the JetKids Club website to start getting familiar with the airline via games and fun cartoons. Parents can utilize the family travel tips on the main website, which incorporate both general information and Lufthansa-specific tools. Once on the flight, the inflight entertainment options emphasize how much they love their little flyers. The best part, though, is the age-appropriate variety of toys and activities they offer during their flights. Another highlight? An airline logbook which, when completed, can be exchanged for a pilot certificate.”

Headquartered in Germany, Lufthansa Germany’s largest airline. At their main hubs you’ll find special check-in counters just for kids. The airline’s free app is a wonderful family travel tool to introduce kids to the world of flying.

 

Jody Halsted of JodyHalsted.com contributed this to MiniTime.

 

More from MiniTime:

Hotels With the Coolest Kids’ Amenities

5 Kid-Friendly Beaches In New York City

A Family Road Trip on South Dakota’s I-90

10 Magical Places to Visit with Kids in Hawaii

Science Says 15 Minutes Can Fix This Common Disorder

Did you know that the average American child spends over seven hours in front of a screen every single day?

It’s a mind-blowing number that becomes even more shocking when compared to the research showing that same child spends less than ten minutes in freeform outdoor play per day. It hardly seems possible when I think about my own dirt-road upbringing, but given the onslaught of increasingly pervasive technology, Nature Deficit Disorder has become a legitimate threat in today’s world.

The term itself may seem a little hokey, and is not actually medically diagnosed, but the data is there to back it up. Access to open, green environments has proven to have a positive impact in children studied throughout the years in critical areas such as confidence, academic achievement, stress-relief, and social and emotional well-being.

As adults, we have all experienced that literal and metaphorical breath of fresh air when we make the time to get outside—away from phones, televisions, laptops, tablets…need I continue? It’s no different for our kids. The stresses of growing and learning can weigh heavy, and children are desperate (despite their moaning at our demands for screen-free time) for that relief. Just fifteen minutes a day can make all the difference.

So, schedule some time to get outside with your kids this week. And better yet, encourage them to play freely while you take in some fresh air of your own. We’ll all feel healthier for it.

 

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How to Get Kids to Create Media — Not Just Consume It

A Day With Kids in Snow Canyon State Park

The Sneaky Science Behind Our Kids’ Tech Addictions

The Basics of Love Show and Tell

This post is sponsored by Pampers at Sam’s Club. The opinions and text are all the same. (See the end of this post for info on how you can score a $10 eGift Card when you spend $50 on eligible products at Sam’s Club!)

I find myself telling my son I love him approximately 854 times a day. I can’t stop myself! I’m overwhelmed with the thought every time I look at his handsome little face, as I’m certain every mother is at the sight of their own children. But I found myself getting philosophical as Valentine’s Day approaches, and it struck me how much more important it is to show our love than simply verbalize it.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s amazing to say and hear those infamous three words. But if talk isn’t backed up by continual action, what good is it really?

It got me thinking how I can sincerely show my son I love him this month, and every day of the year, for that matter. Honestly, it comes down to the very basics.

  1. I nourish his body and mind the best way I know how. Preparing healthy food and snuggling up for a good book (or 6) are awesome ways to help him know he is loved more than quick convenience or that endless mommy-do list I’ve got lying around.
  2. I keep him safe from real physical and emotional harm, while still fostering opportunities for him to learn and grow.
  3. I provide clean clothes and great diapers to make sure he has the foundations for good hygiene and health from the very start.

I have a few requirements when it comes to diapering, since I know that particular form of love expression is going to occur several times a day for years. I need comfort and cleanliness for the baby, and a little practicality for me. Pampers Swaddlers have that soft interior every newborn needs against their skin, plus the wetness indicator strip—which I personally believe is the great invention of all time, particularly in those first few weeks when everyone is so concerned with exact amounts of babies’ input and…output.

Then as baby gets older and more mobile, Pampers provides the stretch and fit needed with their Cruisers line. And, though I tried my genetic best to pass on my wildly insensitive skin to my son, he got his daddy’s cherubic (and dry) glow, so Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes are the answer to irritant-free changes every time.

Definitely keep telling your littles you love them, but show them, too. You can also show yourself a little love by stocking up on your favorite Pampers products at Sam’s Club (where you know you’re buying those V-day chocolates in bulk anyway) and automatically get $8 off the purchase of two Pampers products, and a $10 eGift Card when you spend $50 on eligible products (Pampers included!).

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pampers at Sam’s Club. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

Fun Ways to Enjoy the Winter Olympics As a Family

By Frannie Ucciferri, Common Sense Media

This year it’s easier than ever for kids and families to follow along with the Winter Olympics, all without traveling to Pyeongchang. Fans can use apps like SnapchatYouTube, and Facebook to skate, ski, sled, and even sweep (you’re welcome, curling buffs) alongside their favorite athletes. The Olympics are also a great way to talk to kids about sportsmanship, perseverance, and teamwork — as well as social media benefits and boundaries. The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, begin Feb. 9 with the Opening Ceremony and go until the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 25. There’s a lot going on, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite digital ways to experience the action and turn the Winter Games into a fun learning experience for the whole family.

The Official Olympics Hubs
A great place to start is with the official Olympics website and app. There you’ll find a mountain of resources, including news, results, Olympic history, and descriptions of all the sports. That way you’ll never be confused about the difference between figure skating and ice dancing again.

Meet the Mascots
Every Olympics, the host nation comes up with a cute animated character to represent the spirit and location of that year’s games. This year, Korea introduced us to Soohorang and Bandabi, an adorable white tiger and Asiatic black bear.

Subscribe to the ShibSibs
Sibling ice-dancing duo Alex and Maia Shibutani are not only national champions, they’re also active vloggers on YouTube. The “ShibSibs,” as they’re known online, give a playful, approachable look behind the scenes of what it’s really like to be an Olympic athlete.

View It in VR 
For the first time ever, NBC Olympics is offering more than 50 hours of live Olympics coverage in virtual reality. Although you’ll need a VR headset for the full experience, you can download the app for 360-degree videos on your smartphone or Google Cardboard capabilities.

Up-to-the-Minute Snapchat Updates
NBC Olympics and BuzzFeed have teamed up to offer exclusive clips and coverage of athletes, events, and more as one of the “Publisher Stories” on the Snapchat Discover page. Snapchat will also be offering its usual user-submitted “Our Stories” feature for the Pyeongchang Games on the Discover page, which is made up of curated posts from Snapchatters who are attending the events live, as well as the athletes themselves.

  • Visit Snapchat Discover (reach it by swiping left from the camera screen in the Snapchat app).

Follow the Fashion
If your kids are more into clothes than sports, there are still plenty of ways to engage with the Winter Games. From high-tech heating to sequined costumes to wild curling pants, there’s plenty to talk about — and maybe inspire young designers to get creative.

Listen and Learn
If you love podcasts, we’ve found some great options that will give you answers to questions you didn’t even know you had about the Olympics, such as, “When did snowboarding become a sport?” or “Who are the athletes to watch?” or “What do former figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir talk about when they’re not commentating?” (Learn how to get into podcasts.)

Interact with the Athletes
Many of the athletes competing in the games are active on social media. Following your favorite athletes can be a fun way to get to know them. Make sure to establish rules around social media use. Some of our faves:

 

 

Science Says: Less Is More In Toyland

Picture this:

Your three small children are quietly playing side by side with a transformer, plastic pony, and a set of plush blocks, respectively. They’re focused and quiet, happy to enjoy their activities, occasionally sharing in an imaginative transformer+pony+block merger.

Now open your eyes and scan the kids’ actual toy room. The horror! Toy boxes overflowing with dozens of dolls, trucks, and buzzing whoozawhatsits long since forgotten, broken, or traded in for the latest favorites. A fresh fight breaks out as you attempt to clean up battle wounds from the last one. Another child cries out in boredom because there is NOTHING TO PLAY WITH IN HERE!

Okay, okay…maybe it’s not that bad at your house. But that first image we conjured? Looks like it’s a real possibility according to research done at the University of Toledo.

In the study conducted, researchers observed 36 children in a room where some were given 16 toys and others were given only four. They observed that the toddlers with fewer toys played longer and with more creative exploration with a single toy than the kids who were provided with 16 toys. The study further noted that extended focus on one toy allows for a variety of ways to play with that toy, which reflects cognition, perception, coordination, and ideation—all important developmental qualities.

The discussion of the study also stated that “an environment that presents fewer distractions may provide toddlers the opportunity to exercise their intrinsic attention capabilities.” And in a world where an increasing number of children are being labeled with attention deficit disorders, it may be worth noting that attention is a muscle-like quality with the ability to be strengthened based on a more, shall we say, boring play room.

It’s never too late to pare down and let the kiddos focus on more fun! Plus, you can always gather up some of those toys for donation and kill two birds with one perfect stone.

 

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How to Get Kids to Create Media — Not Just Consume It

By Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media

During a typical day, kids and teens check out YouTube, watch TV, play video games, scroll through social media feeds, and listen to music. Overall, they’re passive consumers of the content they love — which is fine. But with a little nudging — and the right tools — they can be using that time to build creative skills while sharing their stories, opinions, and ideas.

Kids actually love to express themselves, but sometimes they feel like they don’t have much of a voice. Encouraging your kid to be more of a maker might just be a matter of pointing to someone or something they admire and giving them the technology to make their vision come alive. No matter your kids’ ages and interests, there’s a method and medium to encourage creativity.

Photo by Brad Flickinger, Flikr

 

If they have a story to share

As soon as kids start talking, it’s great to get them to tell storiesFor younger kids, encourage them to narrate their activities as they build, climb, and pretend by asking questions such as, “What are you building? Who will use it? Tell me about your adventure!” There are also apps that let kids record their stories as they play. With older kids, some will naturally put pencil to paper, but others take a bit more prodding. For those kids, digital book creation can make their writing process feel more grown-up and tangible. Having a real audience also shows kids that their writing can matter, so tweens and teens can use sites and apps where they can share creations, and they can even riff off their obsessions in the form of fan fictionFinally, if your tween or teen has strong opinions about issues or interesting people in their lives, they can use tools to document and share those stories, too.

Storytelling tools

 

If they have a directorial vision

For kids who love to watch television and movies (spoiler: Most do!), it can be exciting for them to get in on the actionWhen they’re younger, kids love to combine their toys with storytelling, which is not unlike directing a movie. To share those stories, they can play around with animated storytelling apps that let them record a mini-movie with movable characters, props, and settings. As they get older, stop-motion animation might be more their jam, and there are apps for that, too. And if you’d prefer tweens and teens to not have their own YouTube channels but you want to encourage the fun of making videos, there are tools that let kids record, edit, and share in a more limited way.

Video-creation tools

 

If they have an inner artist

When your kid is naturally artistic, it probably won’t take much prompting to get them to draw or paint. But sooner or later, they’ll want to expand their horizons. If your little kid loves to color, give them more inspiration with apps that introduce famous artists. Older kids who don’t claim to be artists but love superheroes, comics, or manga can create their own cartoons with panels, dialogue balloons, and unique characters. Even emerging fashion designers can find a tool to help them express their inner Versace. Of course, for tweens and teens, there are more advanced digital drawing and painting products to create sophisticated designs.

Artistic tools

 

If they have an ear for music

Most kids love music right out of the womb, so transferring that love into creation isn’t hard when they’re little. Banging on pots and pans is a good place to start — but they can take that experience with them using apps that let them play around with sound. Little kids can start to learn about instruments and how sounds fit together into music. Whether they’re budding musicians or just appreciators, older kids can use tools to compose, stay motivated, and practice regularly. And when tweens and teens want to start laying down some tracks, they can record, edit, and share their stuff.

Music tools

 

 

If they have the next big game idea

Learning to code may seem intimidating, but there are a ton of fun apps that teach programming basics in a way that doesn’t feel like work. Young kids who learn to code get introduced to ideas such as cause and effect, thinking ahead, and how little steps add up to a final product. When they’re older, they can make and share simple games using some basic block-coding tools. Tweensand teens can learn actual coding languages so they can create more complex games.

Coding tools

 

If they don’t consider themselves to be creative

Some kids are sure they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies — but they’ll play Minecraft for hours. Others will turn their noses up at art — but will jump at the chance to design a robot. If this sounds like your kid, rest assured that — no matter their age — their bones are actually brimming with creativity. Even if kids aren’t painting masterpieces, playing the trombone, or writing the next hit for Netflix, there are lots of ways for them to make things, especially using digital tools. Any app that requires kids to create a world or creature — especially those that allow them to test their designs — teaches the creative process. Even silly apps that only focus on the process and not the product can free up kids who might feel stuck.

Covert creative tools

 

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Here’s How I Really Feel About Turning 40

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. You know, I’ve told myself I’m above having a midlife crisis about ages and dates. But it really is a weird psychological number. 

Let’s start with the fact that all growing up, I REALLY didn’t think I’d live to be 4o.  I thought the apocalypse would have come and gone and the world itself would have crumbled. But here it is, the eve of my 40th birthday . . . and guess what 18-year-old Rachael . . .I’M STILL HERE.

Here’s a little sampling of what’s on my mind:

Please Bless 

So. Yes. This aging thing is real, and not that cool. I’ve found myself lifting up my eyelids and pulling back the edges of my face in the mirror. Nothing has been nipped, tucked, or injected. Frankly, I’m terrified of it. I’ve seen far too many women in their late 30’s and 40’s roaming around who’ve been hitting the nip, tuck, inject scene, and it seems to turn everyone into the same 50-70 year old frozen in time(ish) looking women with the same robot face.  

But here’s the thing . . . I get it! I don’t want my face sagging off! I don’t want permanent elevens creasing between my eyelids. But I also don’t want to look like I’ve just been in a street fight and taken a direct hit to the mouth. 

Please bless that some measure of grace will let me age gracefully and humanly. But yeah, I just saw my friend the other day and she just dropped 200 cc’s of something in her forehead and it did look tempting.

I’m Scared To Death

This has gone so fast. It keeps going faster. When I do the math (it’s Mormon math), I realize that if I were my own parents, my oldest child would be getting married in 5 years and I’d be a grandparent in 7 years. THAT. IS. CRAZY.  My parents were grandparents by the ripe old age of 47. Tiny babies. That seems like yesterday.

And here I am with teenagers, and time just seems to keep speeding up, and I want to keep them in my house forever, but I feel like there is some sort of countdown clock ticking down somewhere in the ether. Sometimes I just want to freeze us all in place. 

Yet I Love It

Speaking of teenagers . . . I used to imagine having teenagers as the window of life with the potential to be the darkest more miserable time in the world. I mean, TEENAGERS. They are crazy right?

The best thing someone told me when my kids were tiny was “Oh just wait until you have teenagers . . .” (and then I waited for them to tell me things that would scare me. They continued: “Teenagers ARE MY FAVORITE”.

Well guess what? I love teenagers. And being a parent is still fun. It’s trickier. It’s morphed from mothering to parenting. Serious parenting. But I love it, and I love my not so little people and who they are becoming. 

I’ve Got None Left To Give

GNF. If you don’t know what it means, Google it, away from your children. Hint: it doesn’t mean “Greibach Normal Form” — click on the Urban Dictionary link.

There’s a lot of things I really don’t care about any more. That saying: “Life is too short for fake butter, cheese, or people”

Amen to that! 

I really like the people in my life. And I don’t care about impressing them, keeping up with them, or anyone else really. 

What Bothers Me The Most? 

So far it’s that I have to check a different demographic box. It doesn’t feel right. Yep. It’s stupid. But I don’t like it. Throwing me into this 40-60 zone? I don’t belong there. 

Just give me the box that says RACHAEL. I’m good. 

In the meantime, while I avoid checking boxes, here’s to 40 more trips around the sun! (Sunglasses and excellent lighting REQUIRED!)

 

7 Reasons Why Your Teen Smartphone Contract Will Not Work

Building strong “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract.

By Melanie Hempe, Founder/President, Families Managing Media

You (nervously) just gave your teen his first smartphone. Now you are on a strategic mission to build a responsible “digital citizen,” although you’re not exactly sure what that means or how to really accomplish this goal. You have done your homework and have decided to meet on neutral ground with a well-thought-out plan to ensure a safe, positive phone experience for all: a smartphone contract.

Like any rite of passage, the signing of this important document by you and your teen will prove their maturity and your responsibility as a good “digital parent.” The contract seems to be the perfect solution to increase the understanding and seriousness of smartphone ownership, plus it will build good habits, character and responsibility in your teen. Your nerves are starting to calm down, this is a brilliant idea!

Not so fast…

After trying this incredibly popular tool, many parents have discovered that the family smartphone contract is just not worth the paper it is printed on, nor is it worth the high hopes and emotional energy invested in it. Building good “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract. So, before you print off that contract and call your teen off the video game or away from Snapchat to sign it, you may want to read on.

Consider this red flag:

Before we dive in, let’s state the obvious: the fact that we are allowing our children to use a tech tool that is questionable enough to require them to sign a written contract should raise a huge “parent” red flag! 

Configured with built-in distractions, temptations, and traps to gather personal data and time, smartphones are not intended for kids. In addition, the smartphone contract establishes a dangerous mindset, giving parents a false sense of security and giving teens a false sense of “power.”

 

Here are 7 reasons why a smartphone contract may not be best for your family:

 

1) You are dealing with a teen brain. Contracts are not for kids. The frontal cortex (executive control judgment center in the human brain) is not fully developed until approximately age 25. Your teen may indeed be very smart, but we know that scientifically and practically, intelligence has nothing to do with maturity. Their lack of maturity shows as they plead with you and chip away at your leadership through utilizing the following “wear down” skills:

  • Overreacting: “Are you kidding? No phones during homework? I am going to die!”
  • Exaggerating: “I am the only kid in the world with a 15-page (really two-page) contract!”
  • Comparison: “Matt’s mom would never give him a contract because she trusts him.”
  • Guilt: “I guess you just don’t want me to have any friends!”

Some will even spend hours writing “legal briefs” to negotiate their position. You will be impressed, but don’t give in to that underdeveloped frontal cortex! Simply smile, and encourage them to pursue a law career instead. Your brain is mature, theirs is not.

 

2) You can’t trust them–and that’s okay. Most tweens will be eager to blindly sign the smartphone contract so they can get their hands on the prize, but they will not follow it. Teens not only think they are smarter than their parents, but, while the ink is still wet, they will be calculating the loopholes. Remember, it is their job right now to test the boundaries, bend the rules, take risks, seek novelty, enjoy low-effort/high-reward activities, and have fun at all costs. Would you really trust them with the keys to your shiny new sports car because they signed a contract not to go over the speed limit? Your car insurance company doesn’t and neither should you!

 

3) We don’t make deals with our kids. A contract is like “making a deal” to a teen: “You (the teen) do this (behave well on social media) and we (the parents) will do this (keep paying for your phone).” Deals seemed to work when they were little (“Eat your green beans and you can have your dessert”), but that stage has passed. You are the parent. You do not make deals with your tweens and teens now. Instead, you lead them with reason and logic. Don’t believe that deals are working for other parents either. According to the emails filling my inbox, parents who are making “phone deals” are waving a white flag over failed contracts. As one mom put it, “The contract experiment was a failure at our house. Our daughter is being seen by a psychologist for social media anxiety now. The only thing that works is me being more involved, receiving her texts on my phone, checking her apps and content every night, and physically taking her phone when she gets home from school. She has proven that she can’t manage it on her own.”

 

4) Teens are not your equal; you are the parent. A contract implies that both parties have an equal say over the terms and there will be compromise on both sides. Your teen will mistakenly think that they are your equal if you give her a contract and then begin the negotiation process; they may even think that because they know more than you about how to operate the phone, they can renegotiate the contract at any time.

 

5) A phone contract may damage your relationship with your teen. Your teens’ greatest need is to be unconditionally loved by their family, and the very nature of a contract may make them feel like they are an outsider (you against them). Family conflict increases when contracts are broken, and the rules are not clear, concise or enforced consistently. Focus on your child developing manners, and learning empathy and responsibility in real life first, before phone ownership.

 

6) Remember how well those chore charts worked? If you are still convinced that your smartphone contract will work, let’s talk about that chore chart from years ago. How did that work out? If you are like many families, that well-crafted chore chart is under a magnet on the fridge behind the pizza take-out menu (at least that’s where ours is). It got used for almost a week and then it lost all of its power. This will happen to your cell phone contract, too. You can’t expect your children to follow a phone contract when they can’t consistently follow simple directions to floss their teeth, unload the dishwasher or empty the litter box without your constant prompting.

 

7) Smartphone contracts are impossible to enforce. In a recent survey of teen drivers (1), more than 80 percent admitted to using their smartphones while driving. I’m pretty certain that a clause to not text and drive is in every teen smartphone contract, yet they do it anyway. Let’s face it, most parents have no idea what their kids are doing on their phone or social media for eight hours a day and would admit they are unable to track all cell phone activity. The burden generally falls on the parent to enforce and continually check if the agreed upon terms of the contract are being followed. Do you really have time for that? In reality, how will you enforce the contract? A lot can go wrong. And quickly.

 

But don’t just take my word for it. Eric Goldfield, a counselor based in Charlotte, NC, said: “I never recommend contracts for screen management. There is a level of parental naivety if they think contracts will keep their kids on track; they are hoping for accountability but are getting avoidance of consequence instead. Kids know that they don’t have to follow the contract because there is no way to enforce it. There is no investment on their end because they know that their parents can’t keep track of their phone activity. The parent is giving all the power back to the child with a contract.”

 

Is there a better option?

Yes! Your teens don’t need a contract to be good “digital citizens,” and parents must understand that everything changes once their child gets a smartphone. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Care enough to put the brakes on for them and delay the use of smartphones and social media, as they will have the rest of their life (with a more fully developed frontal cortex) to use them. Again, an active digital life is a surefire way to create more stress and anxiety in your child’s life, and consider what your child is giving up and compromising on by using the phone for hours a day. I often share this story from my own experience; after my oldest child became addicted to video games, the rule for our remaining three children became no smartphones or social media until age 18. My daughter did just fine going through high school with a basic phone and my youngest two sons don’t have any type of phone yet.
  • Spend more non-screen time with them. Plan fun family time together and enjoy the quiet, together times. 24/7 access to smartphones will further compromise the already limited time with your kids, while they are under your roof. Time on smartphones and social media is an isolating activity and does not encourage more time together as a family. Remember, you set the “tone” for phone use in your home. They are watching you and your smartphone use as well.
  • Give them a chance to grow up and fine tune real-life social skills that will prepare them better for the world ahead. Developing critical life skills doesn’t happen magically nor do they happen on a smartphone. Life skills come with a lot of hard work, grit, self-discipline and determination. They must be learned and practiced (and certainly don’t include four pages of instructions and terms on how to stay safe).
  • Start with a basic phone to see how they do with text and time limits. Many mental health professionals are suggesting, as we are at Families Managing Media, that basic cell phones are a better choice for teens. Michael Rubin, a San Francisco Bay area psychotherapist who has worked with teens for more than 19 years, recommends that teens have a basic cell phone, not a smartphone.(2) Also, consider the role of the camera on a phone. Photos are the cause of many social media blunders and problems; this may be an option your teen can live without.
  • Establish clear, enforceable RULES with consequences once your child gets a phone. Setting phone rules written by loving parents who care enough to set limits and healthy boundaries will be a much better choice than a contract that is negotiated by children and makes them feel that they are your equal and in charge. Simply write down the rules (view sample here), and smile when you hand them to your teen. Explain that this is a new day. Let them respectfully give their opinion, thank them for sharing bits of their budding wisdom, but don’t argue with them; just keep smiling! They don’t like the rules? Then they are not quite ready for a smartphone. Again, a basic phone is perfect for most teens.

The idea that a “magical” smartphone contract will protect your kids and teach them responsibility is a myth. These powerful devices, although they are a great adult tool, are designed to capture our kids’ attention, their time, their innocence and, unfortunately, their childhoods.

Parents, keep in mind that you are in charge!  You know the added responsibilities and stress that a phone brings to your family, so it’s time to rethink the phone decision completely. Stop worrying over raising good “digital citizens” and focus on raising good kids first; you won’t need a contract for that!

For more tips on how to manage cell phones, including setting rules instead of signing contracts, visit us at http://www.familiesmanagingmedia.com

 

About The Author

Melanie Hempe is the founder of Families Managing Media. She has coached hundreds of families on the effects of screen media use and has helped them achieve a healthier, more balanced media life. With a nursing degree from Emory University, Melanie draws upon her medical background to demystify the questions of why technology has such a strong grip on our kids and why it is replacing normal childhood activities. She offers busy parents easy-to-follow scientific information and practical solutions for children of all ages, as she stresses the importance of REAL life connections in a digital world.

Melanie and her husband, Chris are raising four children in a media balanced home – and have successfully replaced video games with sports, music, art and good manners and they have also done the impossible: they have kept social media and smartphones from controlling their kids.

 

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How An Episode Of ‘Chopped Junior’ Changed The Way I Parent

How An Episode Of Chopped Junior Changed The Way I Parent

How An Episode Of Chopped Junior Changed The Way I Parent

“Mom, can I bake something?” my eight-year old daughter pleaded as she entered the kitchen.

Of course she wanted to bake something.  Because I had just spent the past two hours prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning up from a dinner where I made six different dishes to please our family of five.  I sighed.

“Not right now, sweetie, I just finished cleaning up and it’ll be too much of a mess.”  As if it were the answer she was expecting, she wandered off, probably to watch another episode of some annoying laugh-track show on Disney Channel.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit just how many variations of that conversation we had.  Don’t get me wrong, I often let my daughter help me in the kitchen.  I’m a pretty decent cook and an avid baker and I let her do things I deemed acceptable for an 8 year old.

Simple things like ingredient gathering, pouring, and mixing.  I didn’t let her crack the eggs because shells might get in the batter.  I didn’t let her wash the bowls because she didn’t do a thorough job.  I didn’t let her use the stove top or oven because she might get burned.

Or I would say, “I don’t need any help right now, but you can be the guinea pig taste tester when it’s done.”

And then one rainy night, all of that changed.  I walked into our den to find my daughter watching a show on the Food Network called Chopped Junior.  I sat down to join her and for the next 20 minutes I stared at the screen, stunned, as I watched kids the same age as my daughter work their way around a kitchen better than most adults I know.

These kids expertly chopped using razor sharp knives, they sauteed, they boiled, they pan-seared, one kid made a roux.  What the hell even is a roux??

I sat there wondering how in the world kids so young could be so skilled and knowledgeable in the kitchen.  And then I had an epiphany.  It was so simple.  They could do all of those things because somewhere along the line, somebody told them “YES.”

And I vowed right then and there that I would do an experiment.  The next time and every time, my daughter asked me to do something in the kitchen, I would say yes.

“Mom, can I bake cookies?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make scrambled eggs?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make Mac n Cheese?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make a quesadilla?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make homemade frosting?” Yes.
“Mom, can I use a bunch of your baking stuff and make up my own recipe?”  Ugh. Yes.

And so it went.  I’m not gonna lie…this was one insanely messy, time-consuming, experiment.  In the beginning, she needed a lot of help, learning how to work the oven, the gas range, the timers.  My countertops seemed to be permanently sticky for a while there…the sink never empty of the many bowls, pots and pans she used.

But I usually didn’t have to explain something more than once.  And the more I said yes, the more she asked to do.  Pretty soon she was looking up recipes online and following along on her own.  I became more and more hands-off and watched her capability, and her confidence, soar.

Fast forward to a year later and I will tell you that this is one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made.  And my children are 18, 15 and 9, so I’ve made an awful lot of them.

This kid could cook our family breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if she had to.  She can crack an egg one-handed (I can’t even do that) and can saute’ broccoli with the best of ’em.  Her homemade chocolate cupcakes are the best I’ve ever had.

My daughter will have these skills, this confidence in herself, for the rest of her life.  And that to me, is worth all the wasted eggs, the spilled milk, the messy kitchen.

So fellow parents, I encourage you to really stop and think when your child asks to do something, not just in the kitchen, that might result in them learning a new life skill.

Because for all the time and energy you may have to put in up front, there is a huge payoff at the end.  I know this because tomorrow I have to bring in 24 cupcakes for a pot luck event.  And I’m sitting here writing this article.  Because guess what?

The cupcakes are being handled.  And if I’m really good, she might even let me be the guinea pig.

 

*If you enjoyed reading this post, I invite you to follow I Might Be Funny on Facebook

Janene Dutt resides on a small island in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three children. Her kids once asked her 159 questions in six hours. She suffers from Pediculophobia, the fear of lice. When she’s not blogging, you can find her combing through her family’s hair. Follow her on Facebook…https://www.facebook.com/imightbefunny/

 

 

The Sneaky Science Behind Our Kids’ Tech Addictions

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

Son won’t turn off his video game? Daughter obsessed with “likes” on Instagram? It may not be entirely their fault. Like the high-octane sugar in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and that irresistible chemical spice in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the ingredients in social media, video games, apps, and other digital products are carefully engineered to keep you coming back for more. While researchers are still trying to discover whether kids (and parents) can be addicted to technology, some computer scientists are revealing their secrets for keeping us hooked.

Resisting the urge to check your phone or shut down Netflix after another cliffhanger Stranger Things episode should be a simple matter of self-control. But according to so-called whistleblowers such as Tristan Harris, a computer scientist who founded the Time Well Spent movement, and Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, we humans are totally overpowered. Features such as app notifications, autoplay — even “likes” and messages that self-destruct — are scientifically proven to compel us to watch/check in/respond right now or feel that we’re missing something really important.

Behind the apps, games, and social media is a whole crew of folks whose job is to make their products feel essential. Many of the techniques they use are ones outlined by experts in human behavior, including Nir Eyal author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and BJ Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. Harris argues that these methods “hijack” our own good judgment. Most teens care deeply about peer validation, for example. So it makes sense that friends’ feedback on social media — both the positive and the negative — would tug at you until you satisfy your curiosity. You have a phone in your pocket, so why not check now? And now. And now?

More and more industry insiders — including some who designed these attention-claiming features — are coming forward to cry foul on digital manipulation and even to suggest ways companies can limit it. In fact, it’s not just people who are going public. In 2017, a leaked Facebook internal memo showed how the social network can identify when teens feel “insecure,” “worthless,” and “need a confidence boost.” That’s not a problem “likes” can fix.

Until recently, big tech companies would only defend their products. Facebook, for one, says it polls users daily to gauge success of its features. But when mounting concerns led two Apple shareholders to ask the company to design solutions to potentially addicting technology, Apple said yes. The shareholders also called for more research on the impact of technology use on young users. Such studies could help developers create what Tristan Harris calls “ethically designed” products with built-in features that cue us to give tech a rest.

There is a way to fight back now. Thanks to the folks who are calling out these methods, you can spot specific tricks and reflect on how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Remember: The other side wants to reduce the time between your thoughts and actions. Putting that pause in will help you resist your urges. Below are some of the key features designed to keep their grips on you. Also check out some ideas you and your kids can use to resist temptation.

Autoplay. Most notable on Netflix and Facebook, autoplay is the feature that makes videos continue to stream even after they’re over. Tristan Harris calls this the “bottomless bowl” phenomenon. With a refilling bowl, people eat 73 percent more calories. Or they binge-watch way too many movies.
What to do. Autoplay is typically on by default, so you have to turn it off. The feature can usually be found in the app’s account Settings. Here’s how to turn it off in Netflix.

Notifications. Studies show that push notifications — those little pings and prods you get to check your apps — are habit-forming. They align an external trigger (the ping) with an internal trigger (a feeling of boredom, uncertainty, insecurity, etc.). Every app uses them, but some, such as Musical.lyand YouTube, have discovered that when notifications tells us to do something, such as “Watch Sally’s new video!” or “See who liked your post!” we respond immediately. These calls to action not only interrupt us, they cause stress.
What to do. Turn them off. Most devices have a Settings section where you can turn off notifications. You should also be able to turn off notifications in the app’s settings.

Snapchat’s Snapstreaks. A Snapstreak begins after two users send snaps (pictures) to each other for three days straight. You might think competition is the motivation behind Snapstreaks, but it’s more likely due to a psychological theory called the rule of reciprocation. Humans have a need to respond to a positive action with another positive action. Voilà, a Snapstreak is born. Kids can become so obsessed with sustaining a streak that they give their friends access to their accounts when they’re unable to maintain their own streaks (which is actually a privacy risk). The rule is also at play with “like backs” — when you like someone’s post and ask them to like yours back to bolster your total number of likes. Of course, companies exploit the rule of reciprocation because more data points for them means more opportunities to understand their users and try to sell them stuff.
What to do. Help kids understand how companies like Snapchat are using their (positive) desire to be nice to their friends to get them to use their product more. If your kid’s streaks are getting out of control, try allowing one time per day that your kid can send snaps, for example, after they take out the garbage, clean their room, and finish their homework. Finally, if your kids’ streaks are merely annoying and not harmful, you may need to ride out this phase until your kids go on to something new.

Randomness. If you knew that Instagram updated your feed at precisely 3 p.m. every day, that’s when you’d check in, right? But that won’t keep you glued to your phone. Instead, social media companies use what’s called “variable rewards.” This technique keeps us searching endlessly for our “prize,” such as who friended us, who liked our posts, and who updated their status. (Not coincidentally, it’s also the method slot machines use to keep people pulling the lever.) Since you never know what’s going to come up, you keep coming back for more.
What to do. Turn off app notifications (usually found in your phone’s Settings but also in the apps’ settings themselves). Schedule a timer to go off at a certain time every day and check your feeds then.

In-app purchases. Free games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush lure you in by promising cheap thrills, then offering in-app purchases that let you level up, buy currency to use in the game, and more. But the real sneaky stuff is how companies keep you playing — and buying. The more you use the game and the more in-app purchases you make, the more companies learn about you. Thanks to games that connect to Facebook, they also know who your friends are. That lets them tailor specific products to you at the precise times you’re most likely to buy.
What to do. Spring for the full, paid version of games. They’re cheaper — and safer — in the long run.