Don’t tune me out– I know there is plenty to read about our kids and smartphones. I am sharing this a little more for me than any of you. I am trying to sort out the added info I have been receiving lately and determine my true motivation for taking time to work on the smartphone policies in my home. There is a lot to soak in now that we are seeing a generation of kids with smartphones graduate.

Most parents would tell you they have some specific limits about smartphones. Some common examples would be to not allow certain apps, to not allow smartphones to be charged in their bedrooms, to have technology bedtimes, educate their kids on filters and traps as age appropriate, and try to limit time on devices each day. More people are relating technology to a healthy eating plan– all things in moderation and consume more of the good stuff than the bad stuff.

Some people are still reeling from the negative impacts and are using strong analogies to get parents’ attention. One rehab clinic specialist is quoted to say, “I always say to people, when you’re giving your kid a tablet or a phone, you’re really giving them a bottle of wine or a gram of coke“. In addition, the scope of the negative fall out is getting broader.  There are so many other things going on besides the addiction, that I think we need to consider newer info to shape our current actions. Here are a few examples that have caught my attention:

  1. Smartphones allow kids to be in almost constant contact with others, maybe even causing them to feel obligated to be in touch when they don’t want to. Even my soon-to-be 12 year old who is a social butterfly needs time where she can just be in the moment with her family or a good book. In fact, maybe ESPECIALLY this personality type needs this disconnect time. In her own skin, she would struggle to draw this boundary.
  2. Smartphones cause too many messages to come across with equal importance. It is hard even for adults to distinguish what is important and what is not when the information is coming in so fast. A text message has a sense of urgency about it, even when it is just “wha’s up?” or from my world, “how are you today?” What is the larger implication of us all answering the urgent instead of doing the most important. Please note I have a huge soap box about this issue, because there is no way to make a text appear “unread” if I saw it in Kroger and don’t have the answer in front of me. I have missed countless texts because I can’t answer and then it gets buried. More than I care to admit, I have copied an important text message and emailed myself. And if you saw my pitiful email account you would know this is not even that helpful.
  3. Smartphones cause kids to be narcissistic (well, we are all taking too many selfies and how can that not impact us??) and cause them to interact too much with their own age group and not others. It allows the peer influence to be even stronger than it is. I am not too worried about this one, as we home school and serve in our church and community and see plenty of people to get them outside their bubble. But I include it here in case that’s a helpful reminder to you.
  4. A huge fact you don’t want to miss as you develop your own rules about phones is that middle school kids (and maybe high schoolers!) don’t have fully developed frontal lobes– the part of the brain responsible for impulse control. So when they see the things that flash up or the teasers that are intended to bait, they have way less ability to have self control or wise thinking. Their brains just can’t do it! When we expect kids to know how to resist the smart and savvy ways of the internet, we expect more than what is scientifically possible. Whoa. This is not about teaching character or gaining trust. This is called THEY CAN’T PHYSICALLY DO IT YET. This is big.
  5. The addiction issue is significant. The communication from others and social media streams are compelling– if you were recording me on my cruise last month you would see it in action. There was NO WAY to get updates on my phone, and I probably check it every few minutes if my phone was in my hand. Our kids get addicted to the connection, but it also can lead into sexting, viewing of inappropriate images, and even stir addictive qualities that can make them more susceptible to alcohol and drug addiction. This reminds me of my college paper on whether marijuana was a gateway drug and whether or not we should consider that when we talk legalization. But I digress.
  6. There is now research connecting the depression and anxiety that some kids are experiencing to be related to social media. This can be from peers not “liking” posts, to a constant barrage of perfect and happy that they don’t feel personally (because we all put out our best!), to an expectation of perfection unachievable in real life. Kids who spend more than 2 hours on smartphones are reporting to be significantly sadder, and probably don’t even realize why. Since anxiety and depression are a struggle in my family, and there is even a genetic component of it, this one gets my attention like no other. What if the time I let me daughter be on social media just digs her deeper into her hole?? I am on guard now.

Which of these factors (or others not listed) are impacting you as you make your smartphone rules? I think if we can identify the RESULT we are going for, and the major threats to accomplishing that result, we can be on guard. I want to process all this information to identify what matters to ME and MY KIDS. I am eager to hear all of us by starting a conversation. Let’s not just get hung up on why smartphones are ruining our children (or get self righteous about why you are not getting smartphones for your kids until they are 24). But let’s also share what actions we are taking so as to encourage on another. We need each other in this battle.

There are plenty of articles out there to read. Perhaps taking 60 minutes to review and see what applies and matters to you would be an hour well spent? This post was fueled by these great pieces:

  • A recent article about the change you might not like from IFS.
  • An article about smartphones in school (and more) on CNN
  • From December, about the addiction quality of smartphone time on Ideapod.
  • An article on the influence of smartphones on depression and anxiety on CBS.
  • An honest talk about addiction and stressed out parents in the IBS (International Business Times)

Leave your comments here and share with other parents who you know want to continue to shape their actions about kids and smartphones. Also, our coaches are here to help you process and identify what matters to YOU most and what that means for your unique family. Schedule a free discovery session and learn about coaching here.

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