We scroll, swipe, like and chat away happily: our electronic devices often have a big hold on us. What should we do about that? What rules make sense for time spent online? We dropped in on famous blogger family “The Angelones”.
Rita Angelone’s day starts with the buzzing of her smartphone’s alarm clock. “As soon as I get up, I check to make sure the world hasn’t ended overnight,” she says and laughs. Even before her first coffee of the day, the blogger checks the news and her e-mails. The sons don’t have their mobile phones in their room during bedtime – this is a family rule.
Handling the use of mobile phones and digital devices has been a big issue with the Angelones for years – just like for many other families. Rita Angelone writes about this regularly on the family blog and is active on a wide range of platforms. With over 50,000 visitors per month plus an active community on Facebook and Instagram, the family blog “The Angelones” is one of the most successful in Switzerland. Rita, 55, lives with her husband Daniel and their 17- and 15-year-old sons on the outskirts of Zurich.
Rita and her husband Daniel have recently stopped checking how much time their children spend on their screens. “Up to that point, though, it was a rocky road,” he says. The sons got their first smartphones in high school, and before that, they used an iPad. The parents tried to guide the boys in their digital habits as best they could: they set up parental controls to limit their use and occasionally checked up on them. But they also gave them their privacy.
The parents are keen to not simply forbid things without talking about them or to demonise them. They want to give their children space to experience things for themselves. This applies to all the challenges of growing up – including the use of media. All of this calls for a lot of mutual trust and tweaking the levels of supervision here and there. “Online and offline, sometimes they have to learn the hard way,” Daniel is convinced. In retrospect, they see negative experiences such as bullying in class chat rooms, phishing traps or treading a fine line with copyright law as important lessons for their sons as they grow up.
Things turned difficult for the Angelones during the pandemic: the boys were hanging out at home, couldn’t do any sport, weren’t allowed to go out. “Understandably, they spent more time on their screens,” say the parents. But after the restrictions were lifted, the teenagers stayed glued to their screens. “That became difficult.” Rita and Daniel noticed that more rules were needed again – like no mobile phones allowed at the table, in the bathroom or in the bedroom. “It wasn’t easy to enforce, but it was useful.”
Their own blog community helped them to cope with this phase. “Seeing that we weren’t on our own with our concerns and worries was good,” Rita tells us. “For some families, gaming was the big problem, while for others, it was social media. At the end of the day, all families struggle with this issue.”
Rita Angelone is glad they managed to get through this tough time. And her sons have remained open to talking about it. They discussed online content and watched it together. So the parents didn’t have any serious worries there. Both of the boys are now so busy with school and sporting hobbies that they just don’t have the time to spend constantly on their screens. The situation has calmed down a lot.
Not all young people have turned things around as successfully. The Helsana Emotions Study 2022 revealed that feelings of exhaustion following the pandemic were highest among young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. An astonishing finding. Head of the study and political scientist Michael Hermann believes that the pervasiveness of social media is a root cause – but also the high expectations that young people have of themselves. Media educator Beat Richert comes to a similar conclusion: “The constant feeling of missing out is just everywhere. Young people consume apps as a kind of remedy for boredom. Any free moment is spent using a device.”
The fact is that spending long hours every day on social media, gaming or chatting can lead to physical and mental health problems. Painful muscle tension, red and burning eyes, sleep disorders or irritability are the result. Studies also show a connection between excessive media consumption and hyperactivity or weight problems. In extreme cases, excessive time spent online can also lead to addiction. More on this in our article on mobile phone addiction.
Back to the Angelones: it is just as crucial for the family blogger to know what her teenagers do on the internet all day as how long they spend online. Rita Angelone’s sons are sport fans. The eldest usually watches fitness and nutrition content on YouTube. The younger one watches anything to do with football. He spends most of his time online using his sports streaming subscription, which he pays for himself, or watching football videos on TikTok. Rita and Daniel Angelone value the fact that their sons don’t just passively consume online. “They also actively do something with what they watch,” says Daniel. “The younger one edits little videos from the highlights of Premier League matches. And the older one gets ideas for his bike tours or for the gym. Sometimes, he even brings in a recipe he discovered online that he wants us to try.”
Alongside all this, the family also spends bonding time in front of the screen. They sit and watch the regular Sunday evening crime series on TV together – or they watch different films. “I find that very cool,” says Rita Angelone. “We show the boys our favourite films and sometimes get great suggestions from them. We really enjoy these film evenings together.”
The family blog “The Angelones” is one of the most successful in Switzerland. Blogger Rita Angelone lives in Zurich with her husband Daniel and their two teenage sons.
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