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How to gain control of your kids' smartphone . . . without losing your kids' hearts

A recent study finds suggestions of a link between heavy use of digital tech and ADHD in teens.
A recent study finds suggestions of a link between heavy use of digital tech and ADHD in teens. | Pixabay/terimakasih0

The biggest pain point for many parents is—you guessed it—smartphones. Should our kids own them? If so, how do we keep them from owning our kids?

A typical family with mom and dad and 2 kids will spend, between monthly contracts, hardware, and apps, around three to four thousand dollars a year on smartphones. And what do they get for this significant financial investment?

According to David Eaton of Axis, most parents report feeling utterly defeated by them. They are causes of frustration and worry, and they get in the way of conversation and eye contact. And they are the cause of a yelling match, whenever a parent tries to bring them under control.

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Do we own our smartphones? Or do they own us?

It doesn't take a PhD in social science to realize that smartphones are one of the primary pain points for modern families. Of course, they're not all bad. Smartphones enable us to keep tabs on our kids. Smartphones allow our kids to contact us in case of an emergency. They provide navigation help, safe banking options, etc, etc etc. Not to mention, these amazing devices allow grandparents and other long-distance family members to keep in touch, real time, and be more of a part of our kids' lives.

On the other hand, smartphones put our kids at risk. Because of smartphones, sexting is now for many a normal part of high school. As Eaton told me recently, girls at a Christian school where Axis was presenting expressed that they wished the boys there would ask them for nude pics. In other words, in the smartphone era, this is how the girls know they're wanted.

We all know the list of risks smartphones bring to our kids: sexual predators, online porn, cyber-bullying – not to mention, as if I need to state the obvious, addiction. Smartphones provide a perpetual distraction, and get in the way of face time – no, not the iPhone app – real face to face time, something every kid needs with their parents. And if most of us parents are honest, we're just as addicted as our kids.

Even if our kids don't have smartphones, their friends do. We might have our own homes locked down pretty tightly, but not everyone does. So many of the risks are still there.

My guess is that I haven't shared anything new. One of the most frustrating things about dealing with these ever-present glowing rectangles is that we know the impact they have on our kids. We don't like it. But we also know that if we bring it up, it can lead to a fight.

Is it possible to "reboot" your family when it comes to smartphones and the role they play in our lives? Is it possible to plan ahead, so if our kids are young, we enter the smartphone season with a plan? And most of all, can we do it without going crazy, without the stress, without the fight, without the deception ... without losing our kids' hearts?

The answer is yes, but before I tell you how I know that, we need to agree: It's not an option to send our kids into this smartphone saturated world without our help. To do that is foolish. And it's not an option to think we can keep our kids away from smartphones forever. They could always borrow one from a friend.

The solution is to use the challenge of smartphones to facilitate the mentoring kids need. The team at Axis has identified 100 different conversations that parents can have with their children about smartphones — 100!

In fact, Axis has created three free videos for families, and we have them for you at These three videos will answer the questions:

  • Should I get my kid a phone? When?
  • What if they have one and it's out of control?
  • How can I build and keep trust with them during this season of life?
  • How can I keep from being defensive about their phones and devices?

David and his team have thought more about smartphones and how to help parents than anyone I know. Go to to view the videos.


Reclaiming the smart phone: Four important conversations,

A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley, Nellie Bowles | New York Times | October 26, 2018

Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World, Kathy Koch | Moody Publishers | 2015

Originally posted at Breakpoint.

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. "BreakPoint®" and "The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®" are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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