The Spotify Problem

Lynn JataniaWe have a few smartphone rules in our house: no phones after 9:30 p.m., no phones at the dinner table or other family events, and no phones in bedrooms.

These rules work fine for my son, who is 15 and isn’t a big social media guy anyway. But my 13-year-old daughter recently found and adopted an old phone of her dad’s, and although it isn’t actually connected to a service, she can use it on wifi to play games and send messages to her friends via Hangouts or Instagram. So we applied the same rules, asking her to put the phone away at certain times and to keep it out of her bedroom.

She hasn’t been as good about boundaries as our son, and we’re experiencing our first pushbacks. We’ve found her phone in her room a few times, resulting in her losing it for the following day; she often tries to sneak it under the dinner table. It’s been a challenge.

But lately, we have also been questioning our rules and wondering how flexible we should be. In particular, we have a Spotify Problem.

Recently we got a family Spotify account, which allows each of us to share one paid account for streaming music, but to log into Spotify with our own profiles. This keeps our music preferences separate – so those of us who like Disney songs can build up a library from Aladdin and Moana, while those of us who prefer 90s alt rock can get recommendations for Nirvana and Green Day. It allows us all to enjoy the service in a custom way.

My daughter loves to read in her room, and she likes to put on music while reading. She has a small MP3 player in her room and until now, used her (very old) iPod to listen to music when reading.

But now that she has Spotify, her tastes are exploding. There are playlists upon playlists of new, exciting music and she is ready to explore. And what better way than to put on a few new albums while reading in her room?

It seems like a good fit – nursing her hobbies in a pretty safe way, letting her explore and grow as a teen. But it means letting her take her phone into her room, where she can also check her messages and set aside her book to see what’s new on Instagram, and then maybe “forget” to put it downstairs overnight. Next thing we know, it’s a slippery slope to phones in rooms.

We know that someday the rules will have to change, and to relax. She can’t live in a safety bubble her whole teen life, then move out as a young adult and suddenly have no self-control or composure — but first we have to teach her what is normal, what feels good, and what is healthiest for her.

We’ve been experimenting with Spotify only in her room, but that’s too tough of a rule to follow right now. So instead, we plan to make her a comfy reading spot in our little-used living room, where she can snuggle into a soft chair and read with quiet, phone-provided music playing nearby. We’ll try to respect her privacy and need for space in this common area, but still keep her phone out of her room.

Hopefully it turns into a good compromise for us both, but we’ll see where the road leads.

How do you handle phones in rooms? Do you have any exceptions, and how is that working?