Who is telling our young people they can turn off their screens?

We all know the complicated problems teens have with their phones. We know some of the science that is revealing that there are real problems happening inside teens because of their phones. We know our fears of what we will continue to learn and our complicitness in this as parents who have given teens phones.

“If we (parents) don’t do something, this generation of kids on YouTube and TikTok will die with more of other people’s memories than memories they have created on their own.” 

–Joey Odom, founder of Aro

Joey Odom is an entrepreneur who is doing something. More below.

I wish I could say this is a marketing scare tactic, but I know you know that this is a true reality.

Forming memories is such a large part of adolescent development. I don’t think we ever imagined a way that teens would be forming their memories from other people’s memories. What a crazy scary world.

There are no easy answers. The answers are always changing. Your teen is a unique soul so there is no one-size-fits-all answer for you.

We still have hope. Some smart people feel these concerns and are taking a stab at helping you parents.

The New York Times is now saying this:

“It is abundantly clear that texting, tagging and chatbotting are making students miserable right now. One recent national survey found that 60 percent of American college students reported the symptoms of at least one mental health problem and that 15 percent said they were considering suicide. A recent meta-analysis of 36 studies of college students’ mental health found a significant correlation between longer screen time and higher risk of anxiety and depression. And while social media can sometimes help suffering students connect with peers, research on teenagers and college students suggests that overall, the support of a virtual community cannot compensate for the vortex of gossip, bullying and Instagram posturing that is bound to rot any normal person’s self-esteem.

“We need an intervention: maybe not a vow of silence but a bold move to put the screens, the pinging notifications and the creepy humanoid A.I. chatbots in their proper place. They are our tools, not our masters.” (Unlocked source link)

We need an intervention.

A-to-the-men on that one. That is why you clicked to read this article.  

Who is telling our young people they can turn off their screens?

More from the New York Times:

“…Colleges should offer a radically low-tech first-year program for students who want to apply: a secular monastery within the modern university, with a curated set of courses that ban glowing rectangles of any kind from the classroom. Students could opt to live in dorms that restrict technology, too. We can work individually with students who have accessibility accommodations to find the best low-tech solutions for them (like turning off Wi-Fi, rationing screen time and deleting attention-guzzling apps).”

Now our radical college campuses are offering ways of the very things many of you parents are trying to teach your children about their phones. Ironic is that these classes are in demand, have wait lists, and have received the attention of the New York Times.

Who is telling our young people they can turn off their screens?

Besides you parents, who also fear your endless loop of phone nagging is being tuned out.

The hope is these voices are out there.

So many researcher voices.

Many TEDtalks and others teaching on how to use screens as a tool, not a master.

Joey Odom has created this unique phone box that makes sense. Learn more about it—and the heart behind it (you’ll agree)—here:

“This is the message of hope. This is not an addiction. This is a habit.  With addiction you have very little agency. With a habit, you have a lot of agency.”

— Joey Odom, founder of Aro

Parents, you have a lot of agency in this. Find those other voices so you are not the only nagging voice your teen hears.

The one voice I trust the most is Susan B. Arico. She’s a writer like me but this is her voice space. Her website is simple and resourceful. Her emails are not overbearing and always helpful. Her voice is “with you.” She has spoken at my church. As a sample I clipped these 3 tips from an email she sent me March 9, 2021.

Here are 3 tips for Phones and Relationships:

  1. Make sure your closest relationships are with people who know you well, as a real and whole person. Put your emotional energy into those, and make sure in-person connection happens as much as possible.
  2. Aim for at least half your phone use to be connecting with people you know in real life, about things other than logistics. This would include phone calls, FaceTime or Zoom, voice (or video) messages, in-depth emails.
  3. Limit your phone time for interactions rooted in superficial connections. This would include social media and text threads with people who aren’t close friends. –Susan B. Arico, email, March 9, 2021

I have another voice recommendation to watch out for. Remember that I’m a 40+year youth pastor. If your youth pastor is one who likes to incorporate phone use during worship times together, be wary. If the youth group announcements are delivered through Instagram, be wary. If the youth pastor is trying to be a TikTok star, be wary.

You want your youth pastor/youth leader to be one of those voices who is telling your teen to turn off their screens.

I know us youth pastors try to be as cool as possible. To be cool these days requires us to be tech-savvy. Though I take an opt-out on that one due to my Boomer status. I could try all I want and I won’t be cool like that. I’m cool because of my aged-wisdom and teens’ hunger for intergenerational IRL relationships.

Surprisingly, this is a message teens want to hear. They know their screens are increasing their anxiety; they just don’t know how to turn the screen off and then what to do with their thumbs without a screen. They know your nagging voice is what is best for them; they just think you are the only one saying it.

Find those voices. Your teen needs you too. They want you to.

p.s. A new study from Common Sense Media found these alarming truths:

  • The average kid in the US between the ages of 11 and 17 receives at least 237 notifications a day — mostly messages from friends or memes on socials — while some receive 5,000 per day.
  • Most get the bulk of notifications in the evening, with 5% even occurring after kids go to sleep (with 49% saying it sometimes keeps them up at night).
  • 58% report they sometimes spend less time with friends so they can be on their phones, while 30% use their phones to avoid their feelings. Oh oh.
  • TikTok and YouTube are the fave apps, with kids spending 38% and 18% of their day on the platforms. That is a lot of time and influence.
  • Who is telling them they can shut off their phones?

p.s.s. Since this article was posted, several articles have come out about the high schools which are outright banning smart phones at school and what the schools are learning. Like this one. The results are encouraging. All because someone is telling them to shut off their screens.


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