As part of my 21 Day Challenge to go without social media, I’ve been reading a whole hunk of books about the negative effects of phone use & social media use.

Some great books to start with:

I’ve become wildly obsessed with the subject, as I tend to do with new interests, so I’ve been having long daily conversations with my husband. I tell him all about the research & neuroscience behind social media & phones and the very real damage they are having to our brains.

(Psst. Before you keep reading! If you want to listen to this as a Podcast while you read, just click play below, or subscribe via Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastPocketCast (or wherever else you listen to podcasts!))

And we keep coming back to the same place we often do in these conversations:

We are glad for the parenting choices we’ve made (and continue to make) around tech.

Some of our choices:

  • chose alternative schooling options that currently don’t utilise laptops or iPads
  • when our country moved into quarantine schooling and classes were moved online, we opted out of it and elected to homeschool eclectically instead. We knew hours in front of a screen each day was going to create disengaged & unhappy learners (& also drive us insane as parents).
  • have strict parenting controls & access time to iPads + computers at home
  • don’t allow them to have any social media account
  • devices aren’t allowed in bedrooms at night (unless they want to listen to an audiobook, and they know not to play with it or we will remove it)
  • maintain a strict no phone policy for our kids. If at a point in time they need one for safety reasons, we will purchase a “dumb” phone that allows for calls to restricted numbers instead.

Granted, my kids aren’t still quite teens yet. However: they already know our family rules are they will only be able to purchase their “own phone” when they are 18. Until then, any access to devices will be heavily restricted and monitored.

The research continues to back up the heavily negative effects of phones & social media. It’s bad enough for adults:

“While research on these devices is in its early stages (unsurprising, given that they’ve barely been around for ten years), what is known so far suggests that spending extended time on them has the power to change both the structure and the function of our brains – including our abilities to form new memories, think deeply, focus, and absorb and remember what we read. Multiple studies have associated the heavy use of smartphones (especially when used for social media) with negative effects on neuroticism, self-esteem, impulsivity, empathy, self-identity, and self-image, as well as with sleep problems, anxiety, stress, and depression.”
How To Break Up With Your Phone, Catherine Price

Those negative ramifications are intensified on young brains that have not yet developed fully, and souls that have not yet had the time or space to discover themselves and develop their own identity and confidence. Research continues to show again & again how detrimental it is to children’s mental health, self esteem & rates of suicide.

I like how the author Glennon Doyle once answered a question about how to respect a teenager’s privacy with their phone whilst also protecting them. Her response: my teenagers don’t have phones. If they use a phone, they are using MY phone because I pay for it with MY money. And I get to see every single thing that happens in MY phone – every message sent, every photo taken. They don’t get to have privacy on a phone.

It seems like a hardline approach, but here’s the thing: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates & other Silicon Valley tech leaders REFUSE to allow their kids access to devices because they know how harmful they are.

“The fact that so many tech executives limit their own kids’ exposure suggests that they don’t think the benefits always outweigh the risks – to the point that they feel the need to protect their families from the devices that they create.”
How To Break Up With Your Phone, Catherine Price

I don’t care if we’re hard-ass parents on this front. I got the gift of growing up without social media. I got the gift of being able to form my own identity, connect with my own soul, fall wildly in love with nature, and develop a relationship with myself that is outside of how others experience me. It’s a childhood I wish for my children. And I know that social media has been difficult even for me mentally – even when I have a fully developed adult brain, a ridiculously high self esteem & a good understanding of who I am. What hope do our kids have?

I will be a Mama Bear, and I will protect their young spirits, even when they don’t like it. Even when it seems out of step with what others are doing. Even when others don’t understand. We can only make the decisions that feel true and right and good for us.

Big love,