Teen Cell Phone Usage: Where the Fault Lies

Cell phones are ruining the attention spans and socialization of our teens and pre-teens.

95% of teens have smart phones, or access to a smart phone. ( Pew Research )

We look around and bemoan the fact that teens (and let’s be honest - ADULTS) are addicted to their cell phones, yet we do little more than complain - then go back to checking Instagram or FB on our own phones - but it’s ok because we are ADULT and we can handle it.

If you can’t beat ‘em you might as well join ‘em.

After all, those smart phones sure keep kids occupied and out of our hair. (We like to say it helps us keep in touch with them when they are away from us - but I wonder how my parents ever kept track of me?)

What a sad commentary on the current state of parenting.

We’ve deluded ourselves into thinking these devices are a necessary evil, so we might as well just give them to our kids (keeping up with the Joneses) so they can learn how to deal with them at a young age.

These wonderful “tools” are killing our children’s attention spans and decreasing their attention spans to less than that of a goldfish. They are also harming our children’s mental health.

(Believe me, as someone who runs an online business I understand the value of smart phones - but NOT for our children!)

Teen Cell Phone Usage: Parents, this is YOUR Fault!

Parents, I’m sure you’re a bit upset with me right now - or maybe you are cheering because you agree with me. Whatever the case, read on. I want to share with you how we are fighting the good smart phone fight and the differences and changes we are noticing in our home.

I will stand by this statement: Parents, if your children are addicted to their smart phones, it is squarely on YOUR shoulders.

We live in age where we don’t want to hear this, but parents - we need to step up and take control for this generation of kids. We complain about how our world is devolving, and this is one of the most concrete things we can do to impact change.

When to Give a Teen a Smart Phone

The short answer is this: NEVER give your teen their OWN smart phone.

(remember, sometimes being NORMAL looks WEIRD)

The minute you put a smart phone in their hands you open up an entire WORLD to them - literally in the palm of their hand. Games, videos, social media, pornography - you name it, they can access it.

I once had a friend who put it to me simply, “Why would I place that amount of temptation directly in my child’s hands?”

You are probably arguing with me right now, “Well, there are parental controls and restrictions. My child won’t have access to all of the junk.” That fine - do you really want to spend a large chunk of your time being the cell phone police? Or, would you rather spend that time investing in actually BEING with your children.

Lest you think I have this down perfectly, I don’t. We gave a smart phone to our oldest at 13 and have regretted the decision ever since. It opened a Pandora’s box we can never close again. She uses her phone more than we would like. My youngest (now 14) has never had a smart phone, and will not have his own until he can pay for the phone and the service himself. Period. We don’t have cell phone struggles with him.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Child a Smart Phone

How to Stand Your Ground with a NO Smart Phone Policy

We have to fight for the hearts and minds of our children.

There are so many competing forces out there that would seek to destroy our children. We must protect our children fiercely.

A no cell phone policy for our youngest plays out in real life like this:

  • He is part of a community of home education families that are on basically the same page about cell phones. We have made a commitment to educate our children and have them in social situations without cell phones present. This has taken intentionality and planning.

  • To satisfy that need our kids have to communicate with technology my son does have an old iPhone with no cell service. He can iMessage with his friends. He can listen to music approved by us. He is NOT allowed to have this device whenever he wants. He has specific times he can use the device. It is old and SLOW - not very appealing to use!

  • He will have a “home cell phone” that is here if he needs to make a call, or can be taken with him if he is in a situation where he needs a phone. It is not HIS - and he can borrow it during those times.

  • When children come to our house they know we don’t do phones - kids are here to have fun and socialize. A couple of my son’s friends have phones and they happily surrender their phones to us.

  • When my son is working and making money, he is welcome to save for a phone and pay for the service.

  • Lobby for no cell phone policies in other places! Chances are, other parents might enjoy you taking the lead on this. I have fought for years to have our youth group be a no cell phone zone! My kids just get over the fact that I am “that” mom.

The point is this: Parents it is up to YOU to take charge of your household. Set limits early and often. This will take WORK on your part (you might have to spend less time on your phone!).

Spend TIME with your children. Make opportunities for them to be active in sports, music, clubs, church. Give them HEALTHY outlets. When they have too much time on their hands they get restless.

By the same token, give them room to breathe, and model for them what to do in their free time. Read books, exercise, cultivate a hobby.

Choose your friend base and school situation wisely. This will impact your child for the rest of their lives.

Benefits of a NO Smart Phone Policy

Because my 14 year old does NOT have a cell phone, here is what I notice:

  • When riding in a car my child is engaged with me. We talk, listen to podcasts and music together. I don’t allow him to zone out on me with his headphones.

  • When riding somewhere with other children - my child has to TALK to those kids. They come up with fun things to do on a road trip. They INTERACT. There are have been times when he is one of the only ones with a cell phone. Those times have been hard, but sometimes it IS hard to swim upstream.

  • The first thing accomplished in the morning ISN’T checking a cell phone. It is eating breakfast and doing devotions and reading.

  • I believe kids without smart phones are happier because they don’t have the constant barrage of social media pressure and influence. They can simply be themselves.

  • It’s CHEAPER for the family. (enough said)

  • Not having a smart phone leaves infinitely more time for other endeavors!

  • It is easier to parent a child who doesn’t have a smart phone because we don’t have the intense competition against the world!

  • It teaches your child to be less self-absorbed, and more involved with the world around them. It helps them actually SOCIALIZE, instead of virtually socializing.

Smart Phones and Teens: Teens without Smart Phones are Happier

Not having a cell phone means HAPPIER kids!

The ironic thing is this: most kids would tell you their lives would be WORSE without a cell phone, but our children don’t have the life experience to know what is best for them. Teens without smart phones are able to derive genuine happiness from human interactions and creativity, not a device.

And if you’re saying, “Well, they need to know how to behave with a smart phone. It’s better to learn it under my guidance.”… I respectfully disagree.

Your children, when they can afford their own phone, will come up to speed quite quickly, and I believe they won’t be as enamored with one because they have done without it for so long.

Resources for Teens Smart Phone Issues

Keep yourself steeped in resources and a community that supports your no smart phone policy for your teens.

The following books can help:

Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless WorldGrowing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven WorldThe 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children EffectivelyThe Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper PlaceDisconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted KidsGlow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - and How to Break the Trance


I would love to know your smart phone policy.

Remember, we’re all here for the betterment of our families!

Leave me a comment below and let’s get a discussion started.

10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Teen

Chances are, if you are homeschooling a teen now (or thinking about homeschooling a teen in the future), you are a bit intimidated and cautious because - well, they’re teens.

There are so many reasons for NOT homeschooling your teen.

The attitude (oh, the attitude). The difficult subject matter. The socialization. The need for them to be accountable to others. The questions about getting into college.

Put all that aside, please.

So many of these are unfounded, unmerited, and just plain FALSE.

I am an advocate for homeschooling your teen ( If you need to, pause right now and read Stop Telling Me Why You Can’t Homeschool - High School ).

Yes, it will be challenging, and yes it will be painful at times. But so is traditional school.

10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Teen

10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Teen

1. Your influence matters (more than ever) during the teen years.

WHO do you want to influence your teens?

Do not buy into the lie that teens need to move away from the families - and towards independence - during these years. Yes, they will become independent, but with YOUR help.

Teens are watching those around them. We want the examples they see to be of the highest quality. This is where parents come in.

Model what you want to see in your children. It’s your most effective teaching tool.

This is a tremendous opportunity to train up a child in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

2. Your teens will have better social skills.

There are so many ways to socialize your teen homeschooler.

A variety of in-person and online classes, sports and fine arts groups, and well chosen peer groups are just a few of these.

I love watching my children greet adults by looking them in the eye, introducing themselves, shaking hands. I love seeing my children adapt to any social situation. In short, I love seeing the young people they have become BECAUSE OF the intentional socialization homeschool provides.

I would contend that traditional schools do very little to “socialize” children, wouldn’t you?

3. Homeschooled teens will be able to pursue their passions.

We have the unique opportunity to not let our children lose their sense of wonder in the teen years.

Just today, I saw this in action. We have dear friends whose nephew is visiting for the month of December. He is staying with his grandparents (who also homeschooled their children) and they are building into him for the month. They asked him what skill they could help him learn while he was in town.

This young man wanted to learn to forge, so today was his first lesson with our friend who is a blacksmith. They will continue to work together to refine this skill.

We have tapped into community and church members who can help our children pursue any number of interests. It takes some work on our part to find and nurture these relationships, but it is OH SO worth it!

10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Teen

4. We need to protect our teens from the influences of social media.

I don’t need to explain much here. The influence of social media when teens get together in a group is palpable.

When your children are homeschooled you can more easily delay cell phone and social media usage. You have the opportunity to keep your children busy with other things, and to be on the same page with your children’s friends’ parents about social media.

This article speaks loud and clear about the NECESSITY of delaying technology use for our kids.

I’m not saying we don’t let our children use social media. I am saying we do it SPARINGLY and with careful supervision.

5. You owe your teens a safe, respectful space for learning.

Why do we think we need to group literally THOUSANDS of teens together into a prison-like building to effectively “educate” them?

Many schools are unsafe, unpleasant places to be. With increasing frequency we hear about school shootings, bullying, and so much more going on in schools.

Where would YOU learn best?

Why should we expect any less for our teens?

Whether it is at home in a learning space your child has designed, or in some type of a homeschool hybrid environment (which is always smaller), the environment for homeschoolers in infinitely better!

6. We can keep our children from falling prey to the “teen” mentality.

The concept of a “teenager” is a recent phenomenon.

This article from The Saturday Evening Post explains the origin of the concept of “teenagers”.

The teenager emerged in the middle of the 20th century thanks to the confluence of three trends in education, economics, and technology. High schools gave young people a place to build a separate culture outside the watchful eye of family. Rapid growth gave them income, either earned or taken from their parents. Cars (and, later, another mobile technology) gave them independence.
— Saturday Evening Post

Who says teenagers have to be moody and sullen? Why is it that our society almost seems to instill a FEAR of the teenage years in parents?

We treat teens as some different class of citizens, and it really is driven by marketing and education.

It seems to me that the word TEENAGER has very few (if any) positive connotations.

Homeschooling allows us to treat children like adults much sooner. We can maintain high expectations, and not allow them to devolve into teenager-land.

7. Homeschool prepares our teens for the “real world”.

As we design a curriculum for our homeschoolers, we can infuse real world experiences and skills.

Money management. Cooking. Doing laundry. Volunteer work.

Those are very practical things.

Recently, my own teens have had a huge dose of the real world, as they walked through their grandfather’s last weeks of life in hospice care. Homeschooling gave them the flexibility to be with him, and spend time with our family in those last days.

I cannot imagine what our life would have been like had we been beholden to a school schedule and requirements. Sometimes real life means we have to be there for our families. Sometimes real life means dealing with messy and hard things.

The real world is NOT a traditional school. Far from it.

8. Parents can retain control of their teen’s education.

Someone once jokingly asked me if I was homeschooling because I couldn’t give up control of my children. Actually, that was EXACTLY correct.

I appreciate being able to decide (with my child) what classes they take, when they take them, and what the content of those courses is. I know what my children need to graduate and I can decide on the best path to get there.

Having this control saves our family A LOT OF TIME and A LOT OF HEADACHE.

9. Your teens can actually get a BETTER education through homeschooling.

If you are willing to do the research, you can seek out the BEST education for YOUR CHILD.

Nothing can equal the personalized education homeschooling offers our children.

10 Reasons to Homeschool Your Teen

My son is a math kid. I have enjoyed seeking out math curricula that fit his needs. First, it was Saxon Math. Now that he is at the high school level we have chosen Shormann Math and it is working VERY well.

For my daughter, math is not her strong area - but she still needed instruction and to be successful. Mr. D Math was the perfect solution for her. One size does NOT fit all.

In an update I wrote about my oldest, Follow that Child, I stressed the importance of customizing our child’s needs at every stage of their homeschool career. I am convinced that we couldn’t have achieved this customization any other way.

(P.S. : Just read Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education and you will be convicted to homeschool quite quickly!)

10. Homeschooling your teen will give you an abundance of time with them.

As we near the end of the road with our oldest, I can tell you this has been the largest benefit to homeschooling our teens.

This is time I will never get back - precious, precious time.

My children are close to each other and close to their dad and me. As we prepare to send our daughter to college I know this closeness provides self-confidence, security, and an anchor.

10 Reasons to Homeschool

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Lost time is never found again.”

Oh how true this is for our children’s teen years.

We will never get these years back. They matter.

Use them wisely.

I’d love to hear from you. Are you homeschooling your teen(s)?

You Might Also Like:

Homeschool to College

Homeschooling Your Teen: Are You Missing The Most Important Thing?