Thursday, October 5, 2017

why I think technology is ruining our kids

Ok that was a little bit of a dramatic title, but I get more and more worried about technology.

So buckle on in because I have a lot to say.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I've been thinking about this topic (just like I have been thinking of the religion topic from last week) for a long time.  And if I wait forever to post my thoughts I'll gather too many of them and they'll be even more jumbled than they are now.  So I guess it's good to start somewhere!  Plus I know a lot of blog readers have thoughts on this topic as well so I'd like to create a place to discuss them.  So here we go.

I'm worried about technology because gradually it is taking over the minds of my children.  

Oh, it's subtle and crafty.  Just a little here and there.  Begging for an Instagram account, just a few people in a group text, and then suddenly eyes glaze over as notifications bling out of control, focus is shot and self-esteem is knocked down again and again.

So why in heaven's name do we let our kids have cell phones??  I've written all kinds of thoughts on cell phones and technology on this blog (HEREHEREHERE, etc.).  But technology is tricky.  It keeps changing.  And my views keep changing too.

Rather than settling down and feeling like we've done our research and we're good with what we're doing, I'm more and more worried about how it's affecting our kids.

There was a moment in a family gathering last spring that I have thought about over and over again since.

We were sitting at dinner with all of Dave's adult siblings and I was sitting next to my younger sister-in-law Kara (the one who writes this awesome blog over HERE).  Her oldest child, a daughter, is just a year younger than Claire. She pals around with Claire and my other sister-in-law's kids who are all the same ages, and all among the youngest in their families.  They all love each other so much and are the best of friends.
But that's beside the point.  

The point is that Kara leaned over that evening and told me she had a question for me.  I told her to shoot.  And here it was:

"All of you {other sister-in-laws and I, all with older kids in college, younger kids hanging out with her daughter} have told me to wait as long as possible to let my daughter have a cell phone.  Yet each one of you, one by one, have let your kids have them.  Why is that?"

And I sat there wondering the same thing.  What were we doing??  How did we get onto this slippery slope so dang quickly?  

Now, I have to say right here and now that this cell phone deal was not just a spur of the moment decision.  We did think long and hard about the optimal time for a child to have a cell phone.

After handing those puppies over to our older kids with a progressively a little more thought with each one, we did wait longer with Claire.  We gave Grace a phone when she was still in elementary school for some crazy reason, so to be honest, I was pretty proud that we had waited so long on Claire.  We thought about the flip phone option which I know works well for some people, but for us the cons outweighed the pros.  She had an iPod Touch that was great for some things for quite a while, but in the end, after lots of discussion, we just wanted to be able to get in touch with that girl of ours whenever we needed her.  And we wanted to be able to train her well on the p's and q's of cell phone usage in a world that is overflowing with them (they're not going away).  So, at age 13 we wrapped up Max's old cell phone and gave it to her for Christmas along with our "family cell phone contract" (back HERE).  It was long after most of her friends were fully immersed in the cell phone world and she was determined it wouldn't make her eyes glaze over like it did to some of theirs.

But as cell phones become more and more mainstream and apps and social media on them inch their way more and more into life, worry seeps more and more into my bones and I second guess that decision we made last year.

It is not that she is doing anything wrong.  She's actually quite responsible and great with that thing.

But I have five main concerns (for now).  And these include my older kids as well as me and Dave, and everyone with cell phones for that matter (when you get to number 4 at least)!

1) Having a cell phone makes kids grow up too fast.  Claire suddenly has these group texts where her friends are saying things a sixteen-year-old would say.  They see and follow so many older kids that they are morphing into them too early in my opinion.

2)  Social media knocks down self-esteem.  This is not new news of course, but it's scary.  It is a comparison trap.  There are some kids who can handle it fine.  They couldn't care less what other kids are doing or how perfect someone else's make-up or abs are.  But I think that's very rare.  There's too much information out there.  Everyone knows everything about everyone else.  I took Claire and a few of her friends to an art museum a couple months back (as many as would fit into our car), and as we were pulling out of the driveway those girls started getting texts from other girls saying things like, "well, thanks for the invite!"  News flies.  And everyone feels left out whether it was intentional or not.

There was this article my friend sent to me that I studied with Dave:
(The article is HERE.)

It has all kinds of statistics and stories about how social media can knock kids down, especially girls.  One quote to give you an idea is here:  "Boys tend to bully one another physically, while girls are more likely to do so undermining a victim's social status or relationships.  Social media gives middle- and high-school girls a platform on which to carry out the style of aggression they favor, ostracizing and excluding other girls around the clock."

Sad news.

3)  This is new territory for us.  There was no such thing as texting when I grew up.  No notifications or "likes" blinking up at me from the palm of my hand.  I had no idea what my friends were doing when I wasn't with them, unless I was standing tethered to the mounted-on-the-wall-phone by an extra-long cord I would twirl in and out of when I was talking to them on the phone (or trying to hide, stretching that phone cord as far as it would possibly go, if I happened to be talking to a boy:)

And because it's new territory we don't know what the effects will be on the next generation, nor do we really know how to "parent" it.  But I've already noticed the negatives starting to come into play with Grace's generation.  I'm worried about her focus.  I'm worried about her self-esteem.  I'm worried how it affects her school work. I'm worried I don't have enough time to monitor everything.  It's just not realistic.  It's not that I don't trust her, but in this world of ours I think parents have a responsibility to do at least a little monitoring.

Max and Elle got phones pretty late.  They were newer then, not everyone had them, I think they {maybe??} got them after the most precarious years.  Or maybe we just lucked out that they weren't phased by much.  Or maybe the effects are still yet to be seen.  I don't know, but there's something just not right about this next generation of kids with cell phones.  And I think we're all just sinking into it without fully realizing whats' happening.

4)  Phones are taking control.
My brother-in-law sent an article not too long ago that intrigued me titled "Our Minds have been Hijacked by our Phones."  It is HERE.  

It links to an interview with a former Google project manager Tristan Harris tells how the "tech industry uses design techniques to keep people hooked to the screen for as long and as frequently as possible. Not because they’re evil but because of this arms race for attention."

In it Tristan Harris says, "Technology steers what 2 billion people are thinking and believing every day. It’s possibly the largest source of influence over 2 billion people’s thoughts that has ever been created. Religions and governments don’t have that much influence over people’s daily thoughts. 

As a kid, he loved to do magic tricks.  To him they were the ultimate act of persuasion, making the mind skip over things, having the ability to do things to people's minds in a way that they wouldn't even see what is happening.  He likens this to the technology world.  It is persuasion.  It is persuading our kids to be and do things they normally wouldn't.

Harris studied at Stanford where there were lots of classes on how to get people to want more of your product.  But there was nothing talking about the "ethics of persuasion."  He explained that we're not aware of how calculated this intrusion into our lives really is.  "Technology is not neutral.  It's not up to us.  They are bending "attention economy"...everyone is competing for attention.  The way you win is getting someone's attention.  And then again tomorrow.  And then the next day.  Know how people's minds work."

It's really kind of scary.  Not only for our kids, but for us.  In the interview Harris related that on average people check their phones 150 times a day.

What are we doing?

5)  Technology is taking us away from real interaction.  With friends, with strangers, our families, and with God.

In a conversation with my neighbor a couple weeks ago we were talking about how social media can hurt our spiritual lives.  He talked about how when he was on social media he would say his prayers, roll into bed and scroll.  How can you get guidance and direction from Heaven that way?  How can you leave that connection open when you're so distracted?  And in the morning, since he uses his phone as an alarm, the first thing he did was check the news, check social media and emails.  And once he realized this he finally decided to turn everything off when he realized it was really hindering his connection with God.  How can answers to life's questions be found when so much distraction takes us away from listening, and connecting, and making us whole?

Later he send me this talk from conference about how to live an abundant life.  It is HERE.  And it makes you think about the best use of time.

And relationships with others?  How can we make them stronger when we're so distracted?  I was talking to a few different groups of girls at an activity at church last night.  We were working on personal progress and there's a section that encourages you to make some goals of what to work on.  Every single one of them said one of the things they wanted to work on was turning off their phones more.  They wanted to have better relationships with their siblings and parents.  They want to be kinder in general.  And they all claimed cell phones were taking them away from that.

We're crazy if we think our kids are the only ones suffering from lack of focus because of these mini computers in our back pockets.  I am a horrible example at times.  Stop lights and bed time and making dinner, and when the kids get home.  I've started to just put it away in a different room and when I do, it helps.

I've been trying so hard to listen to "nudges" and I've been nudged over and over again this year to find some kind of solution.  I can't just sit by and watch my family drift bit by bit into la-la land.  This is not what life is supposed to be like.

So why not just get rid of those things?  You may ask.  And believe me, I've thought about that a lot.  I've thought about how I can't expect my kids to calm down on all the social media stuff if I can't get along without it myself.  So there was a time a few months ago when I was convinced that I needed to just get rid of everything.  But my wise husband thought otherwise.  He offered that maybe we just work on limiting things first.  Self-control.  Self-discipline is our motto for the year after all.  But are kids capable of that?  Are adults even capable of that?  I'm not sure.

But we're willing to try.

I want to make it clear that I know there are so many GOOD things about technology as well as these ones I'm worried about.  There is so much ability to connect in different ways and spread light and goodness in other ways too.  This blog is technology for crying out loud, and I'm so grateful to have a journal and a record of our family as well as a way to connect with others who help me see the big picture of life and who I can learn so much from.  But even something like this makes me think.  Is it taking me away from my family too much?  Is it taking others away from theirs?  What's the balance?

It's great to be able to get a hold of people when we want to, it's great to be able to get a great recipe or learn something new, ask Siri a question and to learn from all the wonderful ideas swirling around in Cyberspace.  There is never-ending goodness out there.  But sometimes even the good things can become the bad things if they take away our concentration from what will really give us "the abundant life."

So we pulled out Lucy's little IKEA whiteboard for Family Home Evening a couple Sundays ago and I had Grace list two columns:  one filled with "pros" of cell phones, the other filled with "cons."

I loved that these girls saw exactly what I did.  They know there are problems.  They know those things take away their focus.  They know that they make them feel bad sometimes.  We had a really good talk about how we're going to work on "self-regulation" for now to see how that helps.  We are in the very beginning phases of figuring this thing out, and we have a lot of work to do, but we're going to conscientiously work on it together to see what we can come up with.

One thing that hit me was that during our meeting Claire mentioned how glad she is that we have a cell phone contract, and that she has to leave her phone plugged in the kitchen at night.  She said she was just talking to a friend who told her she will lay in bed with her phone and scroll and be mesmerized for sometimes FOUR hours at night.  That right there made me sick to my stomach. Yes, cell phones are hijacking our minds.

So I'll leave this post with a question:  what do you (and your family) do to limit and control cell phone usage?  I'd love some good, concrete ideas.  I know there are so many thoughts about the pros and cons of technology and cell phones and I'd love to hear them.  And I know there's so much I've missed in this post.  Man, I have so many ideas swirling around in my head!

As of right now with our family, we have realized more than ever that continual dialog is necessary.  We haven't found the answer and probably never will, because technology will keep changing as will we, but if we can continue to make tweaks and keep each other in check I know that will help.  Claire went right ahead and took off her Instagram account for three days to see if it made a difference.  She was so happy that it did...she claimed she loved it, and then put it back on, with an effort to "be careful."  We'll see how that works...I have made an effort to only check Instagram every few days and look up into the eyes of my family more often.  Dave and Grace made their own goals.  We'll see how this all works...but I have a feeling there will be more "parts" to this post in the future with more thoughts and worries and hopefully triumphs as well.

103 comments:

  1. We use Disney Circle to filter and limit usage of our phones. It has been a useful tool to set some boundaries and help us be aware of the time we spend on our phones. We keep an open dialogue about our phone usage and circle is helpful so we can see where we are actually spending time on our phones and see if we need to make any adjustments.

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    1. We have tried the Circle thing but for some reason it gets interference with how our internet works. We need to figure that out. But Dave brought up the fact that kids can connect to other wifi if they want to get around the Circle limits. Have you had any problems with that?

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    2. We use Disney Circle as well, but it has its limitations. You can easily turn off Wifi in your settings and use data LTE and get passed it at home, or simply unplug it. It's nice to see where time is spent and does block questionable content as a filter if used at home and correctly. I worry about time spent outside of my wifi range (at school, etc) where the circle does not track.

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    3. Circle Go is meant to be installed on mobile devices and monitors while on other wi-fi networks or on the data plan. Qustodio will do something similar, though, I have found Qustodio to be slightly glitchy. Others have complained that Circle Go doesn't always work. iPhones are notoriously harder to monitor!

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    4. They can connect to other wifi, but we also subscribe to circle go which provides the same time limits/filters outside of our home wifi.

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    5. We have the circle go as well. Our kids can switch it off but it does tell us when that happens. I like that we can put time limits on things (along with a bedtime and pause button when they aren't listening). I don't think there's a perfect solution, but this does a pretty good job. The phones are also in our bedroom at night. And no snapchat allowed or anything that's proving detrimental.

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    6. We use kidlox. It is an app that allows us complete control. When it is on the kids can't access any game apps nd shuts off the internet. Our kids hate it and we LOVE it! They have fair warning when how long they get and when it is off its off!

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  2. You sound a little my grandfather talking about the idiot box/TV. Or my parent's generations talking about our having tv's and phone's in our bedrooms. I suppose every generation does this? A cell phone is just a tool. You can feel how you want to.

    Of course Claire's friends are talking like a 16 year old. She and probably some of fhe friends have older brothers and sisters. If you took away her cell you would find their conversations in real life would be the same. You just would not know. Technology means you can know what they are saying and how they are saying it. There is so much required inclusion today. Every kid or every girl must have that birthday invite in class. Now you get to 12 and have no idea how to handle that 6 kids went somewhere and not you. The constant making sure a friend is in class each year and in each activity and suddenly in junior high or high school a kid has no idea how to make a friend or desire to let a new person into that clique formed in preschool. Have you noticed that suddenly everyone is BFF? In our generation we had several friends but 3-4 BF's. Attachment can suffer if there are too many caregivers. I wonder if having too many friends causes a problem with being able to have meaningful relationships with a healthy connection?

    I totally agree about it being a sleep stealer. People could fall asleep with the tv on. Harder with a cell phone. Anything can be addictive.

    I love technology because my son's classmate with apraxia back in pre/kdg was able to get an ipad with an app that replaced a several thousand dollar device in order to communicate with others. It was less conspicuous and instead of the school owning the device it was affordable solution for his parent's to buy it. There is a lot of crossover with ipad and iphone apps. As he gets older he can use a phone to communicate. A senior with life alert was telling me of a product where the button to call for help was actually on a cell phone. I wish I had a smart phone that could give me directions when I had to take a detour or going to a new place or missing a ramp as a new driver. There is also a camera in case of an accident. And there are so many that simply having one does not make you a target of crime. I like 'friend find' so I can tell where a person is. As a parent when my son gets older this will be great. I wish I could have been a kid making mistakes on a cell phone instead of making those rookie mistakes as an adult.

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    1. Thank you for bringing up all the good stuff. I didn't have time to go into all of that on this post but it's an important component. There are so many wonderful things that come along with technology. I'm just trying to determine how to appreciate the good and limit the not-so-good.

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    2. Hmm, I think the concerns Shawni poses here are valid and are quite different from older generations' misgivings about older technologies. Televisions at least aren't very portable, and you'll never be distracted by one while driving. They also (used to) be much limited in what you could view and when, so while you can plop mindlessly in front of a television for hours, it's much easier to get absorbed in things that are directly tailored to your interests online than on TV. Phones are also much more individual devices, so while you and your family might cozy up to watch a movie together, you aren't nearly as likely to have a sustained interaction around a cell phone. KMS, if you read the article from The Atlantic Shawni linked to, you'll see a number of staggering statistics about how cell phones have impacted adolescence, including markedly higher levels of social alienation and suicide. That's nothing to sneeze at!

      Shawni, I passed around that article from The Atlantic to anybody who would listen! I do find it frightening, and while I don't yet have kids on my own, I'm made very aware of it in my work as a high school educator.

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  3. Hi Shawni,

    This might not be useful if everyone in your family has iPhones, since there don't seem to be blocking apps allowed on iOS.

    On Android there are a variety of blocking apps and tracking apps that help you keep tabs on your usage.

    Cold Turkey allows you to set a timer on your phone (or your computer) to block some or all apps for as long as you want. I'm sure there are ways to get around it, but if you want to stay off your phone and just need a little extra help, it's great.

    I also use Quality Time on my phone, which tracks how many times I unlock my phone each day, how long I spend on it, and how long I spend on each app. I try to set goals to keep my usage time under a certain limit.

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    1. Thank you for sharing and yes, this would solve a lot of problems. I know there are great apps out there that help families limit time on phones for iPhones as well and I'd love to know which ones people use. I've heard good things about FamilyTime and Moment which we really need to try. Thank you for the reminder to look these up and get them on our phones!

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  4. Just saw this local news story (Philadelphia) about an 11 year old with BBS. Thought you would like to read it.
    http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/09/22/nathanael-ogden-bardet-biedl-syndrome/

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    1. THANK YOU for sending this! This is my friend and I didn't even know he was doing it. Loved it and it helps me get ideas rolling for our Turkey Trot coming up.
      xoxo

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  5. Our kids are very similarly aged: 20 on her mission in Colorado, 18 she's at college at BYU-Hawaii:), 16 she's a junior in high school, and 14 my son is freshman in high school.
    All our kids started with flip phones in junior high. Because they were staying after school and coming and going more places on their own I wanted to easily get ahold of them.
    Then iPods came along and it seemed easier to not carry 2 things, charge 2 things, and care for 2 things so the oldest 2 got smart phones in high school. They all have smart phones now and the younger 2 got theirs at a younger age than their siblings.
    From the beginning the understanding was that it is mom and dad's phone that we're letting you use. We must always know the code, and have full access to the phones at any time. No phones at dinner, and they have to be plugged in at the family charging station at night. We told them warn your potty mouth friends that mom and dad will be seeing their texts! ha! Of course the reality is that we don't go through EVERYTHING on their phone, that was never really our intent, but just to keep an eye on things. We use the restrictions settings to put limits on ratings of apps, music, videos, etc... everything that is downloaded automatically comes to mom and dad's phones too. We're friends on social media too. Headphones are for limited use only. Not to be worn at all times, or one earbud in...I have a hatred for that habit. Luckily they had a couple friends that did this and it annoyed my kids enough this hasn't been a problem for us.
    Of course we've had the problems too with getting sucked in. Increased timing rules to include no phone when company is over or we're doing something all together, like playing a game. Turned off almost all the notifications. Even those number badges, they are like the sirens call!! haha! Even how the phone is set up: moving social media and other time suckers to back pages of the phone.
    Then of course just having open dialogue... During the summer I made a ban on electronics for just 3 hours in the middle of the day, and often everyone stayed off for longer, cause we were having fun doing something else:)
    Anyway I know our kids are the guinea pigs for this whole technology thing and I can only hope that we're on the right track!

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  6. Thanks for your post. This is something that has been weighing on my mind and I know on the minds of some of my friends too. It is so hard to know what to do. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas for how to handle cell phones, and I hope you'll follow up with your best tips and advice

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  7. This has been very heavy on my heart as well. I'm a new mom, so no problems with the 8 month old, but my husband and I are struggling to limit our usage. We keep saying we need to do better but when we're so tired, it's an easy thing to turn to. We'd like to amp up our self-control before we add kids using technology to the mix. I bought an alarm clock so we wouldn't need phones in the bedroom but my husband was worried about an emergency. So now the phone is still in the room but on the desk... It is a constant battle.

    I found a website with some options besides Circle Go that we're going to look at.

    https://www.fatherly.com/gear/net-nanny-hardware-devices/

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  8. I watched a movie once where the couple noticed technology was taking over their lives. They resolved to spend the time that they got home from work for the day to the time they went to work in the morning completely unplugged (no tv, no computers, no iPad or iPhone). They struggled at first to even know what to do with themselves but eventually they found themselves going out more, interacting with others more, doing more of the things they used to love to do together. This goal of being unplugged even allowed them the opportunities to solve some of the major problems/issues they were stressed about.

    Now I realize this is a movie and is dramatized and maybe a little exaggerated, but it caused me to stop and think. It led to a great discussion with my husband where we talked about our phone usage and how we could improve. One thing from the movie really stuck out to me and we, as a couple , decided to give it a test run. It works miracles! When we've stuck to it, it's made a big difference.

    In order to help themselves stay unplugged, the couple in the movie put their cell phones in a see through container (I believe a glass cake tray) and kept them there the whole time. Even if they went out they left their phones at home in order to be unplugged the whole evening with each other. This allowed them to not be checking their phones every minute, but still be able to see if a phone call they got was something important (almost like making your cell phone into that old fashioned phone on the wall 😉).

    Now this may be extreme for some and I'm not saying everyone should implement it, but I do know that those times when my husband and I put our phones in the tupperware container at night there is a difference in how connected we our, how our family spends our evenings, etc. we still take them with us when we go out but from the time the work day is over to the time it begins again the next day our phones stay in the see through box. It's just an idea... But one I quite like and thought I'd share. 😊

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    1. We will have to watch this. Thank you for the recommendation!

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  9. I think turning off all notifications helps! It takes away from that need to instantly respond and I find myself putting down my phone more

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  10. Not only do you have to be concerned that your 13 year old is sounding like a 16 year old on Instagram, you also should be concerned that your 19 year old is sounding like a 12 year old on Instagram.

    Do you realize that college admissions departments and prospective employers look at someone's Instagram to help with their decision making? Take a look at Elle's Instagram journaling - pretend you are in BYU main admissions office (maybe she wants to transfer to another BYU campus one day?)- what would be your opinion of the slang, the weird abbreviations and just pure lack of readability? Even her friends who comment say things like "what??" and "speak English"..

    Something to think about at the opposite end of the spectrum.

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    1. I don’t really think there’s an issue with her Instagram. At least for me, the whole point of social media is to share things you love and that make you happy and to express yourself and since it’s her own personal social media account, she should be able to express herself how she wants. :-) regarding the college admissions and such, I don’t think in general, we should be overly concerned about how they’ll interpret our social media because ultimately our social media accounts are for us, not them. :-)

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    2. Tabby, that is how locals speak in Hawaii. It is not ganglike talk. Hawaii is a stew of cultures and that manner of speaking is a mix of all of them. For BYU Hawaii or Provo to take issue would be to insult a community they are guests of. It is instagram not a research paper. The words she is using is not being unkind or crude to any person. Just because you can not read it does not mean it is unreadable.

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    3. No..she's used talk like that (and worse) on her Insta pretty much longer than she's been in Hawaii.

      And, no, there's nothing inherently "wrong" with it, nothing derogatory - it just shows a level of (im)maturity that normally is associated with tweens...junior high and lower grades of high school.

      When I am considering applications and resumes for our company, deciding who to interview... I look at LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Just to get a glimpse of the person I'll be dealing with. Lots of companies do this.

      But since Elle will probably not be interviewing for any jobs, she will probably be ok... unless she is looking to attract a prosepective husband that is going to be a high wage earner, in which case the childish talk might also be a negative since he is probably pretty intelligent....

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    4. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting and captioning things how you want, especially on a personal social media account, as long as it is appropriate. I also think intelligence and maturity isn’t directly linked with captions on Instagram photos. Since it’s her own personal account, it isn’t really anyone else’s place to judge how she chooses to post. :-)

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    5. I think being critical of a 19 year old's wording on instagram when you will never likely meet her is a lacking maturity on your part. No one's instagram or facebook posts should be an issue for an adult job from when they were minor's. It is certainly none of her mother's business what she does at 18 and 19. Are you trying to shame Shawni or Ellie or both? I would not want to work for you. This is bullying.

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    6. Not bullying. Just stating facts. And don't worry, I wouldn't hire you.

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    7. While Tabby comes across a tad harsh, what she says is absolutely true. I followed Elle on IG when she went to HI, just because I'm a longtime blog reader. I am frequently confused by what she writes, and it's a fact that employers are searching social media prior to interviews these days.

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    8. Mother's are not the audience of a 19 year daughter of a blogger. You are not supposed to understand. You are not a teen living on a Hawaiian Island. Her literacy skills are evident in her grades on her transcripts. The social media hopefully is checked to find out if a person is hung over regularly and not politics or religion. Novels are not written on social media. I doubt she is much different than other adult teens, except for understanding some phrases which are unique to where she lives. It is more impressive she knows what those phrases and words mean having been there a short time.

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    9. I am surprised that more people don't realize that they can make their social media private. I agree with Tabby that people in the "real world" do look at applicants and see how much they can glean from social media. I really respect when a candidate I am looking at has her social media on lock down. Is there a reason why so many people want the whole world seeing their stuff?

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  11. Brooke Snow has a digital detox class. I recommend it for parents because it we are our kids examples.

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    1. Sounds really good, I'll have to look that up. you're right, we are the examples and it's a big deal for us to control ourselves first.

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  12. My 14 year old has a phone (11 year old does not) but so far has been very responsible. She turns it in at 8pm every night before she goes up to read in bed. However, I've been convicted lately how much time we spend just "looking" at our phones. We all have them out - even if watching a movie at home! Granted, she's only searching for horse tack on Pinterest, but it's the idea that we can't be idle. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and this just affirmed my feelings. I think we will try a "no phone zone" from 5-7:30pm. It would do us all good to simply put them away.

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  13. I heard this idea on the radio - a mom makes her kids write a one-page paper on why they want to download an app before they are allowed to download it. Makes them think WHY they really need it in their life, how it will make their life better, makes them THINK a little more. And then, if she approves, they are allowed to download it. Thought that was a great idea and will be using it when my kids are old enough to have a phone (I'm thinking age 14, but honestly I would prefer to wait until 16).

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  14. Also - I've been a Sunday School teacher for the youth for years (taught all ages, off and on, 12-18) and it was SO distracting and disrespectful when the kids were on their phones while I was trying to teach. Even to pull them out to read a scripture, they would immediately check out and click on other apps on their phones right after. Got to the point where we told them to put their phones under their chairs at the start of class and we brought a big stack of scriptures from the library each week. They paid SO MUCH BETTER attention and we got a lot more discussion going on. So please, don't let your teen bring their phone to church... it's a great idea to have scriptures on their phone, but after they read the scripture, they immediately get distracted with something else. Not worth it. Just leave it home.

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  15. We recently got rid of our tv after reading Chip and Joanna's book The Magnolia Story (of all things- they don't own one!) and it has been life-changing. We have noticed a huge difference in our home and how our kids behave (ages 4,2 , and 5 months).
    I recently read a book called The Nature Fix that talks about how important nature is for us in our current technology crazed world and it has been so good for me! We spent so much time outside this summer and one thing I really noticed was how much nature forces you to use all your senses instead of a screen which allows you to only use 1 or 2. Being outside makes you feel so alive and I'm now committed to getting my kids outside as much as possible.
    I don't have kids old enough for phones yet but often think back to the days when you were fine without a phone and we were safe without our parents keeping tabs on us at all times. I hope to let my kids go phoneless as long as possible.
    I loved your post Shawni! Thank you for encouraging this conversation.

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    1. We read both of these books in my book club! YES to the Nature Fix!

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    2. My sister and I were just having a conversation about this this week. I think it's so important to replace bad habits with better ones and I think being outside and being active is such a great substitute. I'll write more about this soon, but thank you for the book recommendations!

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  16. Have you heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? I think FOMO is far worse with social media because you can see much of what the friends are doing. And it goes beyond social media. Many kids have location tracking for friends so the friends can see where each person is at a given time (like when five people are gathered at your house headed for the museum, for instance). I refuse to let my 15yr old son share his location with anyone but immediate family. I was noticing that sometimes a certain friend would invite him over the instant we had arrived home and I couldn't figure out what was going on until I poked around and found that they were sharing locations with each other. So I put an end to that. And since my son is not a driver, sharing his location is also basically sharing MY location and I do not give my approval for that, either. It still does not keep my son from having FOMO with others who are sharing their location with him but it is a start. Too much information out there!!!

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    2. Yes, the location stuff worries me. It seems that apps infiltrate their way into everything!

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  17. BTW, the stuff on social media can be misleading (what is new?). For instance, my son was with a group of kids at stake conference who texted each other to meet outside to take a fun picture. They were together for five minutes--five minutes total for the whole month--but from what it looked like on Instagram other youth might assume they were partying every weekend! Did they take the picture to feed their own FOMO? So that they would have something to post? Social media is a funny dynamic.

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  18. I read this article a few weeks ago and it has some great ideas for limiting phone usage.
    https://medium.com/an-idea-for-you/how-i-stopped-checking-my-phone-and-started-using-it-with-intention-ec2f38c0b536

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    1. Loved this article, thank you for recommending it. Lots of good ideas.

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  19. Hi Shawni:
    Thanks for the thought provoking post. I have four children, 1 married, 1 in a relationship, 1 on a mission and 1 at home. Because of certain circumstances with my oldest son, we did not allow and still don't allow unsupervised internet access in our home. All of my kids had only flip phones at 14 and a couple of them got smart phones as seniors depending on their own personal needs or struggles. The smart phones all had passwords we knew and everything was locked down with a password only we as parents kneow. And...I know this is shocking...my kids didn't have and don't have social media while at homes. None of it. And they all have survived it just great. And they went out into the world and adjusted just fine.
    We also did two things with the phones that worked really well. We required phones charged in our room at night, first. And second phones go on top of the bookshelf when they get home. They stay there all evening when they are home. They can check them periodically. This has made a HUGE difference in our home! I actually was able to see my kids faces again, as opposed to the top of their heads!
    Anyway, I love your blog and have learned so much! Thank you!

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  20. I thought your title was spot on! Years ago, we decided to give our youngest daughter a cell phone when she entered high school, as a freshman. Mainly, so she had communication with us- since she wasn't driving yet, had after school activities, and our house is way out in the boonies and not within walking distance to the school. We completely regret getting her a cell phone. But we felt the pressure from teachers too! They expect students to use their phones to take pictures of notes on the board--to access certain websites for their specific class, etc. It irritates me that everyone assumes every kid has a phone and if they don't, they are made to feel less than everyone else.
    We have "no cell phone zones" which are the bedrooms and bathrooms. The phones must be on chargers out in common areas. We put all cell phones away on Sunday. Of course, the kids think all of these rules are "stupid."

    A stake president once said, "Would you leave your child alone in a room if you knew there was a rattlesnake in that room? Of course not! A cell phone has the potential for far greater destruction. And it's not a matter of IF, it's a matter of WHEN." HE WAS RIGHT!!!!!! Every one of my kids have been struck, despite our rules of safety and best efforts to keep them protected.
    I've seen confident, happy kids turn angry, depressed, and disrespectful!
    The fact they feel they can't live without them, says a lot. They are addicted to these devices. It's tragic, in my opinion. But it's not just kids who struggle with this, adults do too!

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    1. Maybe we had the same Stake President! All children, ALL people will confront pornography at one point or another. It's not IF but WHEN. But! We can battle it! Communication, communication, communication and teach the gospel!

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  21. Thank you so much for this post!! Gosh I love your blog and I've learned so much from you. My oldest is 12, so we are just edging into this world, and it is HARD to know what's best! Literally all of her friends have phones and she has been asking for one for a looong time...

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  22. The first thing that popped into my head as I read this was this excerpt from Pres. Boyd K Packer:

    "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
    The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel."

    There are many new challenges for each generation, but the gospel remains the same. And the promises remain the same.

    And one other thought- my friend and I were having this conversation and she shared with me a thought about the good use of technology...
    Our Family History and Temple work is of the most important work on earth and the hereafter, our technological platforms to do this work are created by men and women who did not grow up with computers. When our youth take over these programs and platforms, the applications and software will pull the work forward like never seen before.

    Thank you for shinning light on one of the most important topics of our day. :-)

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    1. I needed to read those words from President Packer. Thank you.

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  23. Also our very tech savvy Bishop gave a 5th Sunday meeting lesson to all of the adults in our ward called our "Ward War Plan". He talked about the war we are in right now and how it is described in the Book of Mormon in the war chapters. At the end he gave amazing references to lots of filters, programs etc. that monitor all sorts of technological use- in the home, out of the home, with wifi, with LTE etc. I will have to get his sources and send them to you! I learned there is a way to monitor and limit every aspect of your family's use.

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  24. Great discussion! Anxious to delve into the other articles and read more and more what things work for you.

    I was just going to add that on date nights we have a challenge and the first person to look at their phone loses and has some sort of pay up...one that you agree on ahead of time (i.e. foot rub, picking move/dinner location, doing an extra thing for the other) etc. It's just a little fun but helps keep intention in mind for phone usage.

    I think I'm going to start instituting a phone fast for a couple of hours during the dinner/pre bedtime rush...I need it...they need it.

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  25. Thank you!! This is so timely! I am about to give my child his first phone tomorrow morning for his birthday! Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. After discussing with friends/sisters/ the Lord/my spouse, we felt it was the right thing to do, weighing good and bad! This will be a major trust building experience, although we do already trust him which is why we ar giving it. Hopefully this just increases that sacred trust.

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  26. The problem I see everyday as a substitute teacher is that the students are using their phones in class when they shouldn't be. Our district does have a strict no phone usage policy but teachers have given up on trying to police the kids. I have had several teachers (I work at the High School level) tell me that if the kids choose to use their phones instead of working then they will suffer the consequences (of lower grades, failing tests, not turning their assignments in) and I know that may sound like a cop out but it is a constant problem trying to get the kids to put their phones away. I have been in classrooms where every single student had their phone sitting on the desktop. I have also walked into a class room just before the bell rings and every single student is texting, googling, snap chatting, or watching youtube videos. It happens on a regular basis. None of our kids are immune to this either. And unfortunately, parents are some of the worst culprits about texting their kids while they are at school and in class. Parents need to find out what their child's class schedule is and then be sure not to text them during classtime. Phone usage in our schools is a major problem. I am truly concerned about what kind of an education our kids are getting and its not the teachers fault, kids are addicted to their phones. I believe it is an addiction. They cannot live without them. When my adult kids and grandkids come to dinner at our home we have them put their phones in a big basket. If we didn't, they wouldn't even communicate with one another. It's a serious issue and I have no answers but I do wish all parents would take their kids phones away from them by bedtime and I wish every family would have a regular phone free time together every day or evening. These are not just phones, these are mini computers we carry around that give us access to anything and everything and it is difficult to put them down.

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    1. Susie, what happens if the teacher or principal confiscates the phone? My school district has a strict no cell phone policy and it's right in the school rules that teachers and admins have the right to take the phones from the kids, and a lot of schools really enforce it. Is your school district afraid of backlash from the parents?

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    2. We also have strict district policies concerning cell phone use. No one enforces it, at least at the High School level. If the teacher (or sub) takes the phone on the first offense they take it to the office and the student picks it up after school. With a second offense, the parent has to come and pick the phone up. I am seriously considering making an appointment with our new Superintendent to discuss all of this. When teachers don't enforce the policy it makes my job as a sub so much harder. I think they may be afraid of parent's reaction to enforcing the policy. As I said earlier, many of the calls and texts our students get during class are from their parents. They support the policy, just not for their student.

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    3. The district policies will be changed in an instant that the phone is conficated from the wrong person. School policies have to be accepted by the community who puts in the school board. I find it odd that school who wants kids online to do homwork and research do not want an internet capable decice in the classroom. Its like saying you do not want them to have pen and paper in the 80's because of notewriting during the lecture. They are better off resisting temptation and using the benefits of the tool, like the online calucator apps, than having total freedom first year in college or at their job.

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  27. I can't agree with you enough. I am constantly trying to figure out ways to make sure our phones our serving us rather than us becoming slaves to our phones/technology/apps.
    Two things that work for us: 1) no phones in bedrooms/upstairs ever. They also charge them in our room at night. I found this be necessary as the mother of a kid that really pushed the boundaries. You might not get caught grabbing your phone late at night from the kitchen, but you will if you have to come into our bedroom! And 2) When our kids are home, they don't carry their phones around the house with them. They leave them on the kitchen counter. This way they can still text friends, check apps and keep in touch (which is completely fine to do!) but it greatly discourages them from constantly being on their phone. This is hopefully teaching them that their phone is not an appendage. It is a tool to use and walk away from and then work on homework, chat with a sibling, go outside, etc. all the normal things kids used to do before carrying phones around all the time. Bonus: visually makes it easy see when my child is on their phone too much because they are obviously standing for long periods of time in the kitchen. And, second bonus, prevents my pet peeve, double screens - when my kids are watching tv and on their phone at the same time. I can't tell you how often I've had to say "pick a screen!" before we switched the rules.

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  28. Getting outside had long been “my fix,” but sometimes I forget to help my kids learn to get their nature fix. I am going to check this book out!

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  29. one thing that worked with my 17 year old was that we did not get her a flip phone until middle school since both parents worked and we lived too far to walk home so we wanted to be able to keep tabs on her
    We got her an iphone in high school because of the location tracking capabilities as well as other studying capabilities (flashcard apps, emails, etc which don't necessarily replace traditional studying but definitely help on the go). During her freshman/sophomore year, we were much more restrictive (plug in the phone downstairs at 8pm sharp, no phone around guests or at meals, etc). We still have these expectations, but we also expect her to be responsible and on top of these rules. In addition, social media was not allowed until she was 15 (and only made out of necessity when she was placed in charge of the student council social media committee). overall she does not seem as attached to her phone as others (younger kids especially) tend to be but its always a work in progress :)

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  30. One thing I noticed is that when kids are gradually exposed to all this social media madness, they tend to adjust better. It could just be my own kids but my 17 year old was very gradually introduced to all this hoopla, whereas I have seen some of the 13 year olds I work with who have access to a smart phone and all the social medias possible (which weren't even around when my daughter was 13) tend to have stronger issues with distraction and fomo and whatnot. I work with a lot of teenagers I noticed that the 16+ kids tend to be more well-adjusted where as those 12-15 are less adjusted. I think this may be because most teenagers older than 16 have gotten their cell phones later in life (in either middle or high school). On the other hand, I have worked with students who get a smartphone as young as 10. I feel that since technology (especially social media) kind of exploded over the last 2-3 years, younger teens are simply more susceptible than older teens. When my 16 and 17 year old kids were in elementary school, the 'cool way' to talk to your friends was to borrow your mother's cell phone and call one another. With my 10 and 13 year old, the cool way to talk is through social media and group chats. I find it oddly fascinating how a age gap as small as 7 years can dramatically change someone's relationship with technology/social media

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    1. It is fascinating I agree, and I also agree that the gradual thing really helps....at least it sure has with my kids!

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  31. My kids simply don't have cell phones. They are the only kids in their respective classes/groups of friends, but it doesn't make them outsiders AT ALL. It is so very simple really. Every single parent I know complains about their kids' cell phone use, but they are the ones who bought them for them. Life without cell phones is not that big a deal with us. Life WITH cell phones seems to be the problem.

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    1. I have 5 kids, the oldest is 18. None of them have cell phones. Yet somehow, we survive.

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    2. I couldn't agree more!! And, quite frankly, if it did make my kid an outsider, I'm ok with that, too.

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  32. I love that you had Grace list both the pros and the cons, there are so many of both. I'm glad I'm a little behind this first generation (my oldest is 11) and I can get ideas from the wise ladies a little ahead of me. I do have a friend who has a cell phone basket by the door. Cell phones have to go in it when they enter the house and if they want to check them they have to go stand over by the basket. I'm pretty sure my husband wouldn't get behind that idea, and it might be too extreme for me, but it works for her. http://www.realliferealjoy.com

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  33. Navigating the cell phone world with kids is a tricky one! I have a 17, 11 and 9 yo. My 17 yo has a phone but still brings it to our room at 9 pm nightly so that she doesn't stay on it all night. We didn't always have this rule but because we look through her phone often without giving her notice (which we believe is critical), we realized a couple of years ago that she wasn't ready to have it all night long. That helped tremAgendously. As for our other children, we've told them not to ask us about getting a phone until they turn 15. With our oldest child, we gave her one around 13 or 14 and ALL the BAD things happened. We, as parents, have to learn from our parenting mistakes and recognize that kids are kids and sometimes they are not mature enough to handle having the world at their finger tips, even with security measures in place. We cannot control what text messages, pictures, etc, come into their phones. So much innocence is stolen from our kids too early. Also, after living and learning, we now don't allow our 17 yo to know her Apple Password so that any APPS she wants on her phone (SnapChat, IG, FB, anything free or paid for) has to be approved by us. It is our job to protect our children and help them become thriving adults. We are definitely still learning as we go but these are two things that have helped us ever so slightly.

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  34. This is so easy, I feel silly having to mention it... DON'T GET KIDS SMART PHONES! Wow, soooo easy. Do you really feel your kids need to 'fit in' and have smart phones like 'every other kid' their age? What are you teaching your kids? There were no smart phones years ago, and looky here... all us old folks are still around to tell about it. I think kids can live without smart phones. And don't go saying crime is worse nowadays so kids need smart phones to be safe, not so, crime is the same, you only hear about it more due to all the media outlets... smart phones included. If for some reason a child must have a phone for a way to communicate with a parent, get a flip phone with no texting capability, not a smart phone.

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  35. Shawn, I thought you might like to see this from KSL Studio 5

    http://studio5.ksl.com/?nid=54&sid=46056906

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  36. My kids are young (8 & 6) so this has not yet become an issue for us as a family, but I dread the day they start using social media and smartphones. I've heard so many scary stories from parents of older kids. My 8-yr-old is already (falsely) claiming all his friends have an ipad and agitating for one (no one in our house owns one). I am aware that in general I'm not happy with my own behavior with my smartphone. I definitely feel a tug towards it and probably overuse it. I have tried to create the following boundaries, similar to the guy who wrote the article for Medium posted above:

    1) I do not bring my phone into my bedroom at night. This helps me truly disconnect and unwind at night. I have an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake me up.

    2) I do not check the phone at all when driving, even when stopped. I use Waze or Google Maps, but I'm so worried about my kids being distracted drivers when they're old enough, that I want to start modeling attentive driving behavior now.

    3) No phone at dinner. My husband often needs to take calls or respond to urgent emails during the night, but I leave my phone elsewhere, and my husband limits his usage to urgent work business if it's in the middle of dinner.

    4) I limit the apps I download. I used to have facebook on my phone and I was checking it way too much, so I deleted the app. I still check it through chrome on my phone, but it's not as easy and so I do it less often.

    5) I try to bring other reading material with me when I'm out and about, like a novel or a magazine. If I'm waiting in line, I can pull one of these out. I don't know if it has to do with the different way your eyes focus on a screen versus actual print, but I feel less tired and headache-y after reading print vs. a screen.

    6) All notifications (other than text) are turned off on my phone. That phone is not communicating anything urgent to me, so I don't need it to interrupt my day.

    7) On religious holidays (I'm Jewish) and on vacation, I unplug. I use the phone only as a phone during holidays, and having just celebrated two of our major ones, I can report that I felt so much better at the end of the day! I was able to focus more on my family, focus more on services, and just be more mindful and deliberate going through my day. When we're on vacation, I limit myself to checking email once/day and I take a total break from social media. And I love it. It also makes me realize when I plug back in that I didn't really miss very much. :)

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    1. I've done a couple of these things, but it's so nice to see you be so deliberate about them. It makes me want to write my own list. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. What if there's an emergency, what if something happens to a loved one or someone needs you in the middle of the night or your notifications are turned off. I don't have any of these problems because I'm only on one social media and my son is an adult but I do have my phone with me at night because I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if someone needed me and I didn't get my phone.

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  37. this was such a good read and I have loved reading everyone's comments. I have a 14, 11, & 10yr old and I wished I had not given my 14 yr old a phone last year. They are scary, I wish I had made stronger rules right from the start. Someone mentioned us wanting our kids to 'fit in' and I think there is pressure.. for parents, we want our kids to fit in, Its sad but true. I=my oldest is much older is some ways, she thinks she's much older than her 14 years of age, and been popular and having the 'in' things like phone, clothes, are important to her.. then my next could care less. Its so hard to be a parent sometimes!!

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  38. I wonder if the pros really do outweigh the cons. Giving a child complete access to the internet (yes there are filters) seems to me like handing a child a cigarette and saying, "don't smoke". Or worse, standing in front of that child with a bunch of other adults the child respects, smoking and saying again, "don't smoke".

    Is it self discipline to constantly be holding and checking a phone but not going over certain lines? Does it teach kids to stay far from the edge or to get as close as they can and still be "safe".

    I hope more parents will put their actions where their words are and REJECT this ridiculous trend. None of us are more self disciplined than this technology is addictive. It takes humility to say "maybe it hasn't gotten me yet, but I'm not going to play this game" and actively choose a life that fully rejects these dangerous trends.

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  40. For us it is about teaching and modeling self management and and self monitoring. Way easier said than done, but as parents of this generation we are having many of the same experiences they are having. It's all new to us too.

    It is so important we help them learn to do this while they are still living with us. They WILL leave and they WILL get phones (if they don't already have them).


    We have chosen to think this thought: This is exactly the experience these kids are supposed to be having, AND we are exactly the parents for them to be having it with. Ha! But seriously, what is the alternative? This is too hard and therefore I am going to give up? Absolutely not! Diligent and deliberate parenting is work worth doing.

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    1. I think this kind of expresses why we have phones around here, thank you Amy Girl! We want to train and condition and it's actually a pretty interesting learning experience we are all going through right now. Always tweaking. Maybe that tweaking will lead to putting all our phones away at some point and introducing the flip phone again, we'll see. I just love all these points for discussion, I've learned a lot. Thank you ladies!

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  41. As I found myself reading informative back to school posts, one thing was brought up: parents were being told by schools to put the charging stations in their bedrooms because the time stamps for bullying were after bedtime hours! We have a charging station, it's in the kitchen, but I'm one of those guilty kids that would sneak downstairs after bedtime to watch TV when I was a teen (as the internet as we know it now didn't exist until I was in college). It is interesting that even with charging stations, kids still sneak their devices. We try to plug in by the bedtime/bathtime hour at our house, even walking away from the computers too. It doesn't always work. We have time limits on the computers and logins too. They can't log in during sleeping hours, if they use more than 3 hours on the computer, it boots them out. Also, all screens have to be used in a public room--kitchen, living room, family room. Generally speaking, they also have zero access to screens if we are gone. We use Kid Logger http://kidlogger.net/ to see what they are doing on the computer.
    I realized when my kids started school that they have the rest of their lives to sit in front of computer screens AND that when I was really introduced to screens it was 1) as an "adult" (at least legally) and 2) slowly as apps, devices etc. were invented and introduced. Because of these two things, it is even more on me, as the parent, to make sure that I am helping my kids navigate it all. They are of the first generations to really grow up with technology as we know it, and also to help them not be so plugged in so their brains and personalities can develop. It's scary and hard and I hope we're doing a good job of it!

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  42. Oh, how this has been on my mind! This post, this conversation, is so so needed, and I've loved reading through the comments! My kids are 19 (on his mission), 17, 15, 13 (the only girl) and 11. I have felt so strongly lately that we need to act on this cell phone thing, and I've been praying and reading and trying to decide what is best.
    For us, I've decided, and am praying about, this:
    One social media forum allowed. They're only allowed to follow family, friends they ACTUALLY hang out with (no "acquaintances)", and church sites.
    No games.
    No YouTube.
    And no texting at inappropriate times. (Dinner, church, visiting with people, etc.
    These are the issues my family is struggling with most, and I feel like a lot of the "Circle" type apps just over complicate it all.
    Best of luck to you on getting it figured out! We're all in it together, and our collective prayers for our families will surely help us find solutions for them.

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  43. Shawni:
    I am curious as to what your pros and cons were for going with a smartphone vs a flip phone. I recently gave my freshman in high school her first cell phone, and I got her a flip phone, as the only reason I see for her having a phone is so I can reach her and she can reach me. When I recently had a similar conversation with friends about kids and cell phones, I brought up giving kids flip phones and was laughed at. But I truly would like to know why more parents don't give their kids a flip phone? Most parents I know who give their kids phones do it so that the parents and kid can communicate. A flip phone does exactly that, and not much more. Why the need for smart phones for children? Mine have access to laptops at home and ipads distributed by the school for homework. Please reply, I really would like to know someone's perspective on why kids get smartphones.

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    1. because all the kids communicate by texting and group chats - which is really difficult on a flip phone and they send giffs and images to each other.

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    2. I agree!!!! My kids (15 & 13) only have flip phones and I see absolutely no reason why they would need anything else. They can call and text on the phone and that's all I want them to do. Yes, texting is more difficult on a flip phone and I'm glad it is. I guess I'm just a mean, old fashioned parent??? 😜

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    3. Thanks for your replies, Jill and Meshan. Lol Meshan, I'm glad I'm not the only mean old-fashioned parent!

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    4. Hi Sheila! Good question. Mostly it was the communication thing. Serving with the young women in our church for so many years it was tough to reach those girls who didn't have smart phones and without fail they just didn't seem to be getting the messages that they needed for church related things no matter how hard we tried to send separate texts, etc., which kind of turned me off to those. But that was years ago and to be honest, group messages really drive me crazy (except our family ones that send "sunset alerts" and pictures of what everyone's doing every now and again and things that I would have a tough time letting go of because I adore that communication). I honestly think it's just a matter of what works for which family situation and I think flip phones work really so great for so many people. Maybe we need to re-think our original thinking now that we're so into the thick of things.

      I just so appreciate all these thoughts to get my brain rolling in different ways.

      I'll have to come back and do an update as to what tweaks and modifications we do gleaning from all these thoughts and ideas!

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  44. Shawni,
    I agree with your concerns about technology. Phones are often a big distraction/time waster for kids and adults. You’ve got some great ideas - including that awesome cell phone contract!
    I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 16. At the time I felt this was painfully late. All my friends had gotten smart phones by the time they were 12 and I had begged my parents for a phone for years.
    As a young adult I am grateful my parents stuck it out and ignored my complaints about not having a cell phone because I learned how to live without one! I realize now that the inconvenience (and at times minor embarrassment) of borrowing a friends’s phone to call my mom was good for me!
    The truth is I didn’t need a cell phone as a young teenager, and my parents recognized that. While it would have been more convenient for them to be able to contact me directly whenever they wanted, they chose to wait because they knew it would be a valuable experience for me.
    I recognize that there are circumstances where contacting a child is necessary and a cell phone may be the easiest solution. But often we give our young teens a cell phone simply because it is a modern convenience we have come to rely on.
    It’s easy to forget that we don’t have to raise kids the way everyone else is. I have found it helpful to think outside the box and recognize that what is good for my children may be very different from rules or policies other families have. It wasn’t “cool” for me to get a cell phone later than my friends, but it was a great life lesson. I would say a lot of young kids with smart phones are missing out on the benefits of growing up without one.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this perspective. I really agree, the majority of kids who are made to wait longer and longer for cell phones are not going to look back and think "man, I sure missed out!" I think the vast majority of kids who are made to wait longer will be extra thankful to their parents in the long-run when they look back.

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  46. Need to come back later to read your post and the comments, but I read this this weekend and thought of you:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-smartphones-hijack-our-minds-1507307811
    The WSJ charges to read, but the biggest takeaways are that our brains are wired to monitor our environment for useful information, so if a cell phone is around - even turned off, even in our bags out of sight (!) - our available intelligence shrinks because part of our attention is on whether it will vibrate and alert us to some nugget of info we think we need to process. It also measurably shrinks our ability to empathize and connect with others because we can't be fully present.
    Kids who go to secondary schools which ban cell phones entirely show exam grades going up a full letter (!), with the academically weakest kids showing the biggest improvement. Wow.

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  47. We use Clean Router and love it! They have just fixed YouTube so you can also have it Clean. Unfortunately, Instagram is not clean, so my kids just don't get to use it. (I may allow my girls in the future when they are a lot older, but not my boys, it's way too tempting to have something like that at their fingertips). I use the restrictions area for all apps and safari. If the kids want a new app they bring it to me to unlock the app store. My oldest is now in high school so he has safari for school, but I called my cell phone provider and it is now age restricted searching. When he was younger and I didn't have Safari I also called my cell phone provider to lock up data usage so he could only use his phone on wifi mode (so not able to go off our router). Everything on my kids phone are unlocked by me only. Thankfully, my kids haven't begged to be on Instagram or any other social media. Mine mostly just like having games at their fingertips. My younger kids buy themselves iphones, but use them as ipods, which I like because if they have wifi I can still message or call them. Only my 14 year old has a phone. My 12 year old has an ipad, my 11 and 9 year old use as an ipod. They plug in in our room at bed time. And we can still check messages (which only my 14 year old really texts) and check search engine.

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    1. Oh and I actually don't allow YouTube on their phone, just our home computer.

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  48. Which is why you don't want them to have one.... hello????

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  49. I'm 23, and I've been reading your blog for years (found it one day and been hooked ever since!) and I look up to you and aspire to half the mother you are someday! Anywho- I've worked with middle school, high school, and college women from all across the country and from different backgrounds. Although I, too, have grown up in the age of social media and fall into the trap time and time again, I am strong enough to handle it and realize the pressure associated with it. I will tell you that the things these young women tell me that are currently in college about how Instagram impacts their lives, it's astounding how much of their day revolves around it ... and then bring it down even younger and into the high school and middle schoolers- I'm concerned about our future and their mental capacity to understand what goes on. I will say most of the college women can laugh about it, and be like "Yes, I totally just posted that for the likes or because it matched my grid", and know that it doesn't dictate their worth. But it's alarming how the younger girls tend to define themselves by their social media.

    Last night I was leading an 8th grade girls youth group. Topic: creation, Adam & Eve, God made humans in his image and likeness- so everyone is perfect because God doesn't make mistakes. One of the girls said "God might just think I'm perfect, but in my eyes there's so many things wrong... and I know they're wrong because other girls on Instagram don't look like that. (and them she went on and on)" Antoher girl said after being asked what she wanted to be for Halloween, "I wanted to be a Avenger in a onesie, but then my friends and I decided on a much more Instagrammable group costume that we could take cute pics in: yoga instructors. I've never even done yoga." I was heart broken and started asking them about their social media usage and what it meant to them. When I asked, who's approval are you searching for by gaining likes? Why does it matter? No one could answer. I went home heart broken and crushed at how much social media is swaying their lives and taking their innocence.

    There is a book written for middle/high school girls that EVERYONE needs to read. It's God centered, and trust me I went home last night and bought it for my whole group, it's called Liked by Kari Kampakis. Myself, I have it on my phone and read it time and time again. Because we need those reminders living in a world like this. Would HIGHLY suggest reading this with your girls!

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    1. I just ordered that book thanks to your recommendation. Excited to read it with my girls.

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  50. Not sure you're still reading after *all* these comments, but this is an excellent article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia?CMP=share_btn_fb

    My kids are little (6, 5, 3, baby) but I am assuming our no tablets, no "playing" on the phone, no apps, no computer time (6 YO gets a little at school) at this point will make it easier to be clear about why they aren't going to have smart phones at 11.

    One thing I'm curious about: you mentioned that one reason for your kids having phones is so you can reach each other. I hear other parents use this reason too. Why would you need to reach your middle schooler during the day, or they you? And if you *really* need to reach each other, can't you/they go through the school office? My guess is parents and kids are mostly chit chatting, or kids are providing real-time social and academic updates to parents and receiving immediate feedback. Seems so detrimental to fostering the kind of independence that's so critical to cultivate at that age. I don't talk to my 1st grader all day -- why would I need to talk to my 7th grader? Genuine question, not trying to be bratty or rhetorical. I assume there's something I'm not thinking about!

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  51. Not sure you're still reading after *all* these comments, but this is an excellent article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia?CMP=share_btn_fb

    My kids are little (6, 5, 3, baby) but I am assuming our no tablets, no "playing" on the phone, no apps, no computer time (6 YO gets a little at school) at this point will make it easier to be clear about why they aren't going to have smart phones at 11.

    One thing I'm curious about: you mentioned that one reason for your kids having phones is so you can reach each other. I hear other parents use this reason too. Why would you need to reach your middle schooler during the day, or they you? And if you *really* need to reach each other, can't you/they go through the school office? My guess is parents and kids are mostly chit chatting, or kids are providing real-time social and academic updates to parents and receiving immediate feedback. Seems so detrimental to fostering the kind of independence that's so critical to cultivate at that age. I don't talk to my 1st grader all day -- why would I need to talk to my 7th grader? Genuine question, not trying to be bratty or rhetorical. I assume there's something I'm not thinking about!

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    1. Very good points. I think I just get used to communicating with my kids during the day but you're right, I don't NEED to, and as you and a couple others have said, it's probably pretty distracting at school. So tough to find the right balance!

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  52. I love this. My kids are still younger-ish, 11, 8, and 5, and none of them have a cell phone yet, but what is so hard for me right now is that they have friends that do. Both the 11 and 8 year old's good friends have their own phones and are constantly wanting to play on them. My kids are all boys, so for them it is not the social media as much a just playing games for now, but I still feel like it is so detrimental to them to constantly be plugged into a screen. They instantly get bored without a screen to occupy them and forget to use their imaginations to figure out things to do. I limit their times on screens when they are home, but I don't feel like I can tell them they can't play video games when they are at a friends house. So, I am grateful for the insights you have shared and will share.

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    1. Good for you for limiting and being aware...as far as other kids houses I think it will just be a constant balance for all of us! I think every family will get different answers and that's ok and actually good...we need to go forth deliberately with what we feel right about.

      The bottom line is that it is a problem. A big one. And we don't know how it will affect the future of these kids (and us) who are all so screen-conscious. I think even the awareness helps.

      I'm going to try a new plan as my girls go back to school this week and I'll come back to report if it works.

      The good news is that we are the parents. We can do this! We just need to lean on God to figure it all out and as long as we're aware and working, we'll find a solution. We may need to go through a bunch of trial runs to see what works in the process.

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