Smartphone Use for Kids and Parents

Life has certainly changed in the age of the smartphone. 150 years ago when I was a kid, we had rotary phones. They had cords attached to them. There was no call display, no redial. You had to spin this big wheel thingee with your finger to dial each digit. It could take upwards of 7 minutes to dial a number. And if you made a mistake, you had to start again. So we spent more time outdoors. It was quicker to drive across town and knock on someone’s door when we needed to talk. We called that Facetime. Today, calling a friend is as easy as saying, “Hey Siri call Bob.”

25 years ago, when I wrote my first book, I inserted floppy disks into a computer the size of a Winnabego. Today I have a phone, a computer, a library, and the world’s largest shopping center right in my pocket. Someone said, “90% of modern parenting is keeping your kids away from your smartphone.” Our one-year-old grandson can unlock his parents’ phones and swipe through their photos, but he can’t locate his mouth while eating spaghetti. 14-month-old Sorella Stoute purchased a 1962 Austin Healey Sprite from her father’s smartphone. A three-year-old bought a Ford Ranger on eBay with his mom’s phone. And a five-year-old racked up $2,550 of downloads for the game Zombies vs. Ninja on his parents’ iPad. Ouch. Parenting experts almost unanimously agree that the more we limit our kids’ screen time, the better off we’ll all be. But sometimes we parents should look in the mirror.

Psalm 78 tells us to teach our children well. Verse 4 says, “We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.” This can’t happen without giving them the most valuable gift we have: our time. A recent survey of a thousand kids found that many feel “sad,” “ignored” and “angry” about their parents’ phone use. One four-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone.” Some children are now hiding their parents’ phones. They’re desperate for attention. One said, “I feel like I’m just boring. Boring to my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime.”

You likely don’t need another guilt trip, so I salute you parents and grandparents who are letting your phones slide down your priority list while taking time to tell the next generation the amazing things God has done. Let’s be the people we hope our children will become one day.