Apart from giving them the Gospel, the single best thing we can do for our kids’ college, career, and marriage prospects is to train them to be self-disciplined in their cell phone use. Improving their cell phone habits will:
1. Raise their grades: Study time and quality will dramatically improve if they are not being continually interrupted by text messages and Facebook updates.
2. Increase their knowledge: As cell phone use increases, book reading plunges. Thankfully, the opposite is also true.
3. Strengthen their reasoning: Teachers everywhere are alarmed at students’ increasing inability to concentrate and follow the logic of a sustained argument, with most tracing the damage to cell phone distraction and abbreviated communication.
4. Expand their worldview: Although it’s called the World Wide Web, most kids’ worldview shrinks when national and international news are deluged and drowned in a tsunami of local and parochial trivia served up via the social media fire hose.
5. Improve their health: It’s not only that late-night use of screen technology delays and disturbs sleep, but a staggering number of kids check their Facebook status throughout the night as well. Nothing is more important to long-term health than long and deep sleep.
6. Strengthen their relationships: Families who take radical steps to reduce cell phone access and use in the home testify to the huge improvement in sibling and parental relationships.
7. Enhance their communication skills: Employers are desperate for people who can speak a reasonable number of complete and coherent sentences with clarity and confidence, and who can relate to people face to face with courtesy and care. That’s not learned with our faces in a phone.
8. Clarify their vision: When kids are constantly distracted by the latest status update, text message, or Tumblr GIF, they can’t see beyond the horizon of the present to seek and find a long-term purpose for their lives (great article on that here).
9. Ground their self-image: The more time spent in the virtual world, the more unreal our self-image becomes. Our kids need to be grounded in real flesh & blood relationships in the real world if they are not to get an over-inflated sense of who they are and what they’ve accomplished.
10. Deepen their spirituality: Horizontal communication pushes out vertical communication. When kids start the day with their phone rather than their Bible in their hands, the day has already gone wrong.
If we love our children, we must take radical action now. Look at the benefits. Re-write the list in the negative and ask, “Do I want that for my kids?”
What can we do? Confiscation is very appealing, but usually a bit extreme. We can use parental controls and accountability software. We can forbid phones in bedrooms, at study desks, and at meal times. I now insist on all phones (including my own) be kept in one central place when in the house and I limit the number of times they can be checked in an evening. We’re also starting a phone fast on Sundays. And let there be consequences for misuse or overuse, yes, even confiscation at times.
But perhaps the best thing we can do is to talk to our kids about these ten positive reasons for making this wonderful technology a servant rather than a master. It might be the best career move they make. If they master their cell-phone they will stand out in their generation in so many positive ways.