Today I want to take on the non-controversial topic of kids and smart phones and social media. Ha! Just kidding. Everything is controversial. But truly, kids, smart phones, and social media is such an important thing for parents to be clued in on, discuss, and help each other out with. We are the first generation of parents having to handle these things. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and beyond had their own set of struggles to deal with in their parenting, but this is a new challenge.
This challenge comes with real ramifications. Depression, anxiety, and long-lasting detriments to our children’s mental well-being and beyond.
I know what a lot of people will think reading this: “This is just the way the world is and we can’t shelter our kids from everything.”
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This is true. This is the way of the world–to be on phones non-stop, to be obsessed with social media, to live in a virtual world. It is true. We cannot shelter our kids from everything.
But yet, as Christian parents (or just parents that care!), we should want our kids to have something different than alternate-reality lives where everything is on a screen all the time. We should want them to be outside, to be reading, to be exercising, to be INTERESTED in REAL LIFE.
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And although we cannot shelter our kids from everything, we should work hard to shelter them from some things. Parent, this is your job. You wouldn’t drop your kid off in a dark alley at because “we can’t shelter them from everything.” You would not give your child a case of beer and leave for the weekend because “we can’t shelter them from everything.”
There is no difference with handing your kid a small computer with access to pornography, severe bullying, sexual grooming, pedophilia, gender confusion, and every other sort of depravity the mind could imagine, and walking away. We can–and must–shelter our kids from some things.
Kids, Smart Phones, and Social Media
In this post, I’m going to lay out some issues with giving kids full access to the internet. I’ll also share some resources that have been helpful to me. I’ll also share our screen rules too.
This is a big topic and (boy do I know!!) it’s so much easier to plug our ears and sing la, la, la. But we can’t do that. Our children’s hearts are too important.
The biggest problem with giving kids unlimited supply of internet access is they aren’t developmentally ready for it–most adults aren’t, for that matter. There are sites that depend on the vulnerability of kids to then peddle whatever disgusting goods they have to them.
Gender dysphoria is on the rise, as is anxiety, depression, suicide, self-harm and more. So much of the confusion is found online. Not to say that this is the sole reason for this list, but a child who is isolated on their screen will be easily swayed by what they find online.
Kids and Smart Phones
The other night on IG, I shared some info on kids and smart phones. I heard from so many of you and I loved hearing your feedback and what has worked in your homes.
The list of detrimental material that can be found by a child on a smart phone is endless. It can happen so quickly and cause such heartache and trauma.
There are so many reasons to avoid giving your child a smart phone or allowing to much screen time. Some doctors say that even two hours a day can cause a lot of harm to a child. What is the harm? Here are a few things:
- childhood obesity is at an all time high. Sitting on a screen discourages movement and encourages a sedentary lifestyle.
- Some experts say that even two hours a day on screens cause emotional, social, and attention issues
- Sleep issues. The light from the screen causes the brain too much stimulation which can attribute to sleeplessness at night.
- Defend Young Minds has a great website with tons of articles, books and even a curriculum.
- my friend, Greta Eskridge is a huge voice in protecting kids on the internet
- I interviewed Greta about dealing with pornography online and kids
- Allie Beth Stucky has many great podcasts on this topic. Here are some notable episodes:
- We shouldn’t live in fear, but also there is some weird stuff out there. To stay informed is important! This article is WILD and disturbing. It is about a mother who took her daughter back after she was engulfed in gender ideology and more.
- Irreversible Damage is a book about the transgender movement and how it’s affecting kids, especially girls
- Glow Kids is book specifically on the effects screens have on kids.
What Are Our Options?
First, you can choose to not give your child a phone at all. You and I didn’t grow up with a cell phone in our pockets, our kids can be phone-free too.
The other option is a non-smart phone. There are options out there of phones with just calling and texting capabilities.
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How We Handle Kids and Smart Phones In Our House
This is all so individual. Can some kids handle screens better than others? Of course. Do some kids seem more prone to fall down dangerous rabbit holes? Maybe. But either way, it’s our job to be diligent.
My oldest is now almost 20, so some things, I would have done differently.
With my two oldest, we let them have older iPhones at a little over 14 years old. I do look back on that and wish we would’ve waited longer. At that time, we didn’t have the option of a Gabb phone (or if there was an option like that, we didn’t know about it!) We were able to set limitations on the phones so every app they tried to download had to be approved. We were also able to set screen time and down time.
For a time, we also had a Disney Circle, which is a filter for any wireless device in the home. This worked for us for a time, but we started to have some trouble with it on the technical side of things.
If your child has an iPhone, there actually are a lot of limitations you can set and restrictions you can put in place.
All that said, our younger two kids are 13 and 8. We will hold off on giving them phones. I’m not sure what age yet, but we will wait. And when they do get a phone, we will give them Gabb phones or similar.
Other Screen Rules in Our House
- No screens behind closed doors. So, taking the phone into their rooms, bathrooms, etc is not allowed. The opportunity of me walking in and seeing something over their shoulder definitely creates some great accountability.
- No social media. When they are 18, they can dabble in that if they choose to. My almost 20 year old still has no social media. He said that he tried Snap Chat for a couple of weeks and it was such a waste of time he stopped. (Love that.)
- We don’t allow any gaming during the week. It’s always busy, and gaming seems to take away all other interests, and weekends are just a better time to play some games.
- We do occasional digital detoxes as a family.
What Do Kids Do In Place of Screens?
I got the question recently: what are kids to do instead of screens?
See this is the problem. Having the constant stimulation of the screen, we are WAY too over stimulated. Everything seems to pale in comparison to whatever is happening on the screen.
This is why we need smart phone detoxes–often! We will do family digital detoxes. We are about to do one soon actually. No tv, phones, tablets for a set amount of time.
There will be complaining at first. But after that initial shock of what boredom feels like, they will find things that interest them again.
- Board games
- playing sports outside
- jumping on the trampoline
- shooting hoops
- reading a book with PAGES!
- drawing, painting, sketching
- building with Lego
We have forgotten how to be human in so many ways. It’s time to return to things we loved before social media made us bored.
I hope this post helps you to navigate some of these waters. It’s hard, there is no doubt! But we can do this.