Should You Really Take Their Phones?


Should you really take their phones?

I’ve been seeing articles pop up a lot lately that advocate a zero-technology approach for your tweens and teens.

With titles like,

There’s no mistaking what these headlines are after.


Before I break this down, I want to give you my take at the top – but stick around to hear the reasoning.

In short: As a father, eldest brother, and someone who has regret over things I saw at a young age – I still don’t agree with these headlines.

Here’s why.

The conclusions of both writers comes from an uninformed perspective that is not addressing the two root problems at all.

The problems are simple to detail, but difficult to fix:

1. We live in an age where technology is the primary means of communication. To remove this is to effectively remove oneself from the world. Thus, education for persons of all ages is an incredibly important but often ignored step to using it properly.

2. As mentioned above, technology is a principle method of communication. Like all communication in the past, from the spoken word to the written, technology is merely a conduit for the full gamut of human emotion, for good and for ill. What we need to instill in our children is not a fear of technology, but rather, a healthy understanding of personal boundaries in all aspects of our day to day lives.

Whether it is boys in the locker room sharing the ‘cool kid’s’ smut collection, or the girls in the cafeteria emotionally bullying the girl that’s not ‘pretty enough’ to join their club – it is clear that the problems pinned on new technology are not new at all.

Just as our parents and grandparents needed to be aware of the dangers of VHS tapes being shared from our classmates – we as the new generation of parents need to do our best to be aware of what apps our children use, set time limits, and have a basic sense of the dangers. Most importantly however, we need to communicate these expectations and dangers to our children effectively.

If the children are rebelling against all the standards you set, including technology, clearly technology is not the problem. Who they choose to (really, who you ALLOW them to) socialize with might be.

Taking their technology away in this scenario is just an exercise in frustration for both parent and child. Rather than benefiting either party, it is far more likely to serve as a wedge of irritation and distrust between you as they enter more independent stages of their lives.

Real World Advice

I’ve already answered most of the concerns in the first of the articles referenced above(the one written by van Maren – an author I otherwise appreciate), but he brings up one point I want to address specifically:

“Parents cannot control the new world of teenagers. In many cases, they cannot even penetrate it...there are a number of answers. Open communication and open conversations. Attempted oversight of social media use. Accountability software and filters on all technological devices.

But for today, I just want to push one: Don’t give your children smartphones.”

I want to bring up my previous point to contend this one. Is this really new? In a world without smartphones, would a parent be intimately involved enough at their children’s school to know all of their acquaintances, good and ill? Of course not. Unless you have chosen the path of homeschooling, this is an impossible feat. Still then, LEAH groups and co-ops would introduce your children to other families’ values (or lack thereof).

I posit that since the problem hasn’t changed with the rise of technology, the answer hasn’t either: Invest time in your children if you want them to share your values and their feelings.

The second article I find to be simply ‘clickbait’, a sensationalist article meant to generate page views for advertising revenue.

The story details a man’s (a famous one, they repeatedly tell us – as if that has any impact on the tale)
discovery that his 8 year old son was playing a game with pornographic content. As the story goes on though, we get to the truth – the game itself does not intentionally have this content, but other players try to seduce children through the game’s online multiplayer aspect. The father demanded of the company that this content (in-game communication with other players) be removed entirely. As you might imagine, his request was denied.

Multiplayer games are far more profitable than single-player, and beyond that – games that have multiplayer interaction are rated as such. If the father had simply paid slightly more attention, he would have seen that it had that function, and should not have installed the game or allowed his son to play it unsupervised.

In Summary

Technology changes nothing. Online interaction is merely a reflection of offline (real-life) interaction, and to simplify it to ‘don’t interact’ would to be doing all parties a disservice – gaining you nothing but children that are behind others socially and professionally. Most importantly: If their own discernment and decision-making skills are never tested or used, do they really have them at all?

Likely not.

What should we do then? I’ve written an article about that here: Technology Guidance For Parents. Further articles will be written on the topic soon, including “How to see what apps and games are safe for your children” and “How to block advertisements on your PC, Mac, or Chromebook” - so be sure to like and follow me on Facebook for updates!

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