Smart phones can be great tools for many purposes. Communication, maps, and safety are among the positive features that this device allows. In this digital age, we have the world at our fingertips and with smartphones, we have access to information and communication anywhere and anytime. For all the positives that I can list, I can list just as many negatives if not more. Between constant access to games, social media, text messaging, emails, and streaming platforms, we are a society over connected to the world around us but under connected to basic human relationships. We have created a habit of talking with our fingertips in which we can be bolder than if we are talking out loud-over the phone or in person. Screens have kept us connected over the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a blessing, but now that we are free to explore human connection again, many of us are stuck behind the screen as it has become an addicting habit and habits are hard to break. Now imagine, if you will, if it is hard for an adult to step away from their phones, how much harder it is for kids and teens. Not only are screens addicting to for our kids, but now more and more children have social media. It is often hard for adults to conduct themselves properly on social media and yet we are giving it to kids and expecting what? Are we really expecting that they will make “good choices,” when they are online? Maybe as parents, we struggle with the pressure that society and that our kids put on us, “but everyone else has it.” And in today’s world, that’s mostly true. At 13, we gave our oldest son a smartphone for his birthday. Most of his peers had already had one for years. He uses it to do some cool stuff; crosswords, Wordle, fitness apps. But the other stuff like games and snapchat is what draws him in and has him hooked. We didn’t allow snapchat until he was 14. He had one year of having a smartphone before we allowed social media. I wish we never had. I often contemplate having him get rid of it. Why? Because you send pictures and messages and then they poof unless you screen shot it. I monitor my boy’s devices, smartphone, and iPad regularly, but I can’t monitor snapchat. It makes me think that must be why snapchat was created and geared towards kids and teens. They have freedom to snap what they want to anyone they want and then poof, it disappears, leaving behind no evidence to parents. I trust my kids. But I struggle with this. Since I do check the phone and the iPad, I get a sense from texts and camera rolls about what kind of things are going on in the snapchat world.

Did you know that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until your early 20’s. This part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, helps with executive functioning such as planning and impulse control. You can be impulsive online. You can post pictures and videos of your peers and say mean things and not think about how it affects them. You can bully someone on snapchat, Tik Tok, or through texting. School bullying no longer ends at school. I thought I had it rough in my Jr high and High School years, these kids today have it way worse.

My elementary school came together with about 5 others to form our 7th grade class. It was a big school with a lot of kids. There was a boy on my bus, starting in my first year of Jr. high who made fun of me every day. Eventually the taunting followed me to the school building where all his friends started in as well. I was never “popular”, but I did have a lot of friends in different circles. But still, the bullying continued. They were relentless. They had at it until senior year. That’s five years of bullying. In my senior year, my study hall period was filled with him and a gaggle of his friends, and absolutely none of mine. A person can only take so much and one day I realized it was enough. I got out of my seat and walked over to his table and sat down across from him. I looked him right in the face and told him that if he didn’t stop AND get all his friends to stop, I was going to report him for harassment and that it would surely go on his record ruining all his college prospects. Then with my head held high, I got up and walked right out of that study hall class and never went back. Him and his cronies never said another word to me or about me, at least that I could hear.

Now imagine if we had this technology in the 90’s? If those boys ever posted about me on their AOL profiles, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as using texting, snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram, or Facebook. That would have been a nightmare. School and peer relationships have always been tricky and can sometimes be downright awful, but home used to be an escape from all of that. Home is no longer an escape when your peers have constant access to you. I’m sad for our kids. I’m sad for how addicted they are to screens. I’m sad about the bad choices they are making and the bad choices they could/will make. Are you checking your kids’ phones? This is my PSA, Check Your Kid’s Phones! Check your teenagers’ phones. Maybe your kid is not being bullied, but perhaps your kid is the bully. Or perhaps your kid is a participant in a nasty group chat, even if they are inactive member. This is not a matter of trust or snooping. Their brains are not fully developed yet, and our kids need their parents to parent them. They need guidance and direction. Of course, they will make bad choices. They need to make some bad choices in their lives. But let’s help them grow and learn. Let’s help them to learn from their mistakes. Let’s equip them with the tools that they need to handle themselves and to make good decisions when they get into bad situations. Please don’t give your kid a phone and assume they are responsible and that all is well. This world is a crazy place. Let’s let kids be kids, but let’s not let kids be jerks. Let’s protect our children and teenagers. Check the phones and all the other devices. Do it for your peace of mind. Do it for their safety. Do it for their peers. Do it to contribute to making the world a better place.

Are you or your kids struggling with screens? What would you like to change or do differently? I would love to hear your thoughts. And if this blog resonates with you at all, please share it!