Friday, January 15, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 15


As moms, we all want to build good nutritional habits in our children for their long-term physical health. However if we tell our children to eat their vegetables, while they watch us binge on junk food, our example will speak louder than our words.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

When I see a small child, unable yet to talk, swipe through her mom’s phone, I wonder what habits we are allowing our children to form. Do our children see that we always have time to check email but not time to read them a story?

Do our children even have a chance to form healthy relationships with media? This scares me. Our generation is facing a challenge that our parents didn’t face. And with our children, we don’t get a chance for a rematch.

When I turned sixteen, I never considered getting a phone, but my oldest daughter just got her driver’s license and, of course, considered a phone to be a necessary accessory.

I’ve been dreading this for years. Do we cave to the expectations of society and get our teens their own smartphone with full capabilities to hold the world in their hand? Is a phone necessary for their safety? Will the phone bring temptations that a teen isn’t capable of handling? Can I use this the phone as a teaching and training opportunity? What expectation am I setting with my oldest child that will be carried to her siblings? I’ve certainly wished that I could have thrown all these decisions on Ed.

Maybe in ten years I’ll have answers to these questions. And maybe that is what is difficult, we can’t go to the older generation and ask, “How did you handle phones and teens?”

We don’t have the benefit of years to see the results, but we know that the default setting on phones is to trap our children. We must be aggressive in addressing the pitfalls. While I don’t know the answer of successful training for our children, I think it includes deliberate teaching, good examples, and accountability.

Today’s Challenge: Think about the example you are setting for your children. Would you want your child copied you?


  1. I just wanted to throw out there that most cellphone providers can block data and text on phones. We did this with our "home phone". At least it lets us postpone the whole internet issue for a another day.

  2. Such a hard issue. My young girls like to pretend they have a phone - with a toy block, or whatever is the right shape. It worries me and makes me think about the way they see me use a phone. I try to tell them exactly what I'm doing on the phone or the computer: "I need to reply to a message from so-and-so about next week" or "I'm checking the weather to see when the rain is forecast," and I try to keep texting to only necessary messages when they are around. We have had talks lately about how the phone is a tool and not a toy. I tell them it is a way to communicate by messages or talking, and a way to get information when you need it. I explained to them that I always keep it quiet and put away in the morning so I won't be distracted, but that I leave the sound on after quiet time so I will hear Daddy's message to tell me he's on the way. I want them to know exactly what I do with it so there's no allure of mystery. It's simpler when they're so young, but I dread the process of gradually introducing them to the digital world. I pray daily the Lord will protect them from it by filling their hearts with good things instead. I remembered this resource from a few years ago - you may find it helpful!

  3. I don't know if this will be helpful, but when we ran into the same dilemma with our son, we ended up getting him a cheap tracfone that was a smartphone without all the bells and whistles of an iPhone. We installed Google Family Link on it, which allows us to limit or block apps and which requires our approval for any apps to be added. We also are able to set time limits, so that the phone automatically turns off at 9PM. Together, we and our son also decided to block Chrome (and any other search engine). If he needs to look something up, we can temporarily allow Chrome, but we were not comfortable with him having full access to the Internet while away from home or in his room.

  4. A flip phone might be a good option for your teenager. I just recently got a smart phone and I must say, I spend a lot more time on my phone now then I used to. They still sell a few basic flip phones.

  5. Some flip phones still have internet on them, but most have parental controls or as someone said, you can turn off data at the phone company level. Unfortunately, usually texting (at least with pictures) requires data. My mom has a flip phone we got for $19.99 (new!) from pageplus and she buys another 100 minutes every three months. If they are added before old minutes expire, old ones roll over. She has plenty of minutes for the few short calls she makes from stores to home/children, plus enough "minute" money to cover a couple dozen incoming texts and pictures over the course of the year. All for $10.64 every 120 days. So that's an option if the person truly is using it for an emergency contact tool.

  6. This is really good - thank-you so much for this series of reflections. My issues are with my computer rather than my phone - I personally don't like my phone very much.

    I've got a trial of a program called Salfeld running on my computer at the moment - while it has some irritations, it is really good. I chose that one because it was the only one I could find that allows you to set limits for particular websites - so for instance, it's possible to allow yourself (or your kids) only an hour on facebook per day, but unlimited access to Britannica or the weather forecast! It is actually designed as a parental control but I'm finding it really good for parenting my inner child - and if there ever is a crisis or I'm doing a long days work, it is easy to set an extension: it just makes me think about it.

    When I was about eight or ten (I forget exactly) my family got some very basic mobile phones for contact, so we could go off alone easily and have the means of summoning help. It is pretty much necessary in this country (UK) now, due to the demise of the public phonebox. When I was ten, you didn't need a mobile (at least, not in a built up area) you just found the phonebox. So there is a genuine difference in the need for a mobile compared to people twenty years ago.

    Also, I think there is a real change in the issues when there isn't any way of averting a problem, and when there is. If you can't be in contact in an emergency, it is just accidental, if there is some way of being in contact, it is much more complicated.

    I think it is still possible to get the sort of phone that only does communication in this country, so that might be a way around car safety issues?

    I had an amusing experience meeting a relative who lives in another country and couldn't get his phone working here. I simply went to meet all the trains he could be on for about an hour and a half! Which is what would have had to happen in the past. When my grandparents were courting, they arranged when and where they would meet by letter... not even landline phone. It has changed very very fast.

  7. Continuation...

    Parental autonomy to act in what they think are the best interests of the children is important: I think the following are worth considering, but I do genuinely want to put them as thoughts from my experience as the "half-phone" generation, not as an "all parents should do this" type demand.

    1 In general, parents can choose when children start using different technologies, but they cannot make the choice about "if". Children will become adults and make their own choices. A case can be made for introducing young people to phones while still at home, so they learn with supervision. My instinct would be that children who grow up using something, are actually more likely to be disciplined with it as adults. Things that look attractive but have been very highly restricted in childhood, can be much harder to develop good habits with than things which have always been part of life.

    2. Introducing your teenager to a smart phone at a point where you are considering its right use, or using that point to consider the right use of your own phone, may help them develop a thoughtful attitude from the start. Ultimately they will have to learn to discipline themselves in these matters. This isn't a reason for not starting off with external discipline, but it is a reason for also encouraging thought and giving them some choices. I've heard it suggested, for example, that you should turn off games and social media during "homework" time, but give your child/teenager the choice about which two hours (or whatever) they would prefer for doing their homework.

    3. I would guess this problem is less for people who homeschool, but there is a need to be careful not to make teenagers too different from their friends. This doesn't necessarily mean going with bad social expectations: it could equally mean making sure they have the chance to develop real friendships with a variety of others their own age whose parents have the same ideas about the appropriate limits of phone use.

    4 Talking about the dark side of the web with children is probably unavoidable, just as much as the conversations about drugs and crime and diet are. They will encounter it sooner or later. I'll never forget doing a search for a point made in Aquinas when studying philosophy and finding about half the sites the search engine came up with were, um, matter of a highly dubious nature. I knew what I was looking at and could avoid them. Someone who doesn't know is likely to be in more danger of looking, and then of getting caught.

    5 If your children/teenagers behave such as to deserve your trust, it is good to trust their good behaviour to some degree. It can be extremely difficult for children to have their good behaviour ignored, and to be treated suspiciously all the time, rather than this suspicion being the result of their actually lying or actually not being trustworthy. Making trust a reward for behaving in a trustworthy manner is usually appropriate. On the other hand, it is (frustratingly) necessary to keep responsibility age appropriate, and not expect them to deal with too much too young.

    Parents are amazing, and they get thanked much too little. They take incredible amounts of responsibility in extremely difficult situations, while getting very little respect. I think it is worth talking about these things, but I wish it was possible to do so without it feeling so critical, as that is really not what I intend.

    Anyway, thanks again: I look forward to the rest of your posts on the subject :-)


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