There’s few bigger parenting nightmares or Pandora’s boxes than the smartphone. It’s the gateway to all evil, right?!

Just because you didn’t grow up with it doesn’t make it wrong.

Your fear, however well founded, is not your teenager’s fault. Let’s not forget which generation invented the smartphone and many of the ‘evil’ apps your teens likes to spend their day on, all of which were designed to be addictive!

Teenagers are being raised in a digital era. Smartphones, the internet and social media aren’t going away, even if you don’t understand the draw or need to have a phone in your hand 24/7 (well, maybe some of us do…).

Smartphones have created one of the largest generation gaps and if we don’t address this now, imagine the chasm between you and your teenager later.

Look at your teen’s perspective.

It’s like getting to hang out with your friends at the mall….24/7. YAY!! And if you don’t, you’ll miss out on the connection, relationships, who said what, etc. What’s worse, every minute you’re not there, you risk becoming the topic of discussion!

Plus, your teen’s phone is a digital, daily record of their interactions and conversations, a journal of sorts. A lot of teenagers use their phones as a journal, via the Notes app, Google docs or other apps. They save videos funny, insightful, or personal videos from Instagram or TikToK just like you do. Social media is a vehicle for expression as well, allowing them more avenues using visual, video platforms or even emojis that we didn’t have with dial up telephones.

But it’s dangerous!

It can be. Knowing your teen has unfiltered access to the world and the world has access to them is unnerving to say the least. There are predators, cyber bullies and a fake photoshopped world shown to lower self-esteem because of constant comparison, leading to increased anxiety and depression symptoms and create more sedentary lifestyles.

Smartphones don’t make bad kids.

We all got into trouble as teens before they were a thing, including hiding things or lying to our parents. In fact, 96% of adolescents lie to their parents at least once, higher than the 71% of teens who hide online behavior from their parents (Panda Security). Smartphones don’t lead to lying even if they may make is easier.

“That’s why I need to check their phone almost daily!”

For parents, it’s about safety. For teenagers it is about privacy.

Do you see the disconnect here? Both are valid and remembering that is key to a healthy relationship with a smartphone in the middle.

Creating a transparent agreement about regular or periodic checks, and having your teen present during those checks, helps you understand their thinking, clarify what you see (because assuming, well…) teach safe habits and correct actions that put them at risk.

Going through your teen’s phone like a daily diary because you can, without them knowing, is a breach of trust.

“Well, I pay for it!”

That’s excessive and ineffective use of power and control that doesn’t work. And what if your teen lives in your house and pays for it themselves? A lack of privacy is detrimental to your their mental health, increasing feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness.

Watch the full video to hear what we did with our boys here ⬇️

Wifi is more important that oxygen!

Cell phone addiction is real. Remember it was created to be a dopamine addiction device so talking down to your teen about being irresponsible isn’t helpful. The teen brain lacks self-regulation which plays right into what the creators of these apps want. That’s not your teen’s fault, but it is their problem.

·     33% of teens and 50% of parents occasionally or very often try to reduce the amount of time they spend on their mobile devices, but most fail to change. Lake Research Partners, Device Addiction Survey (2017)

·     Young adults (age 15–24) check their smartphones an average of 150 times per day (or every six minutes), and send an average of 110 texts per day — New York Times report, 2017 — Pew Research Study 2011

·     50% of surveyed teens admitted that they felt addicted to their mobile devices. — Lake Research Partners, Device Addiction Survey (2017)

Setting usage limits at the onset is helpful using external timers, not the one on the phone itself which is easy to ignore. Empowering your teen to understand their brain and how social media apps were designed is critical to engage them in creating healthy schedules without you feeling like you’re nagging them about it every day.

It’s about teaching and empowering.

Parental controls are great for limiting usage and access to certain apps (including downloading them in the first place) during the school year and to support healthy sleep habits. When your teen understands you’re on their side as they develop positive online presence and self-regulation, you’ll get less resistance than letting them go hog wild and having to reign them in or simply remove their phone privileges.

My top 3 parental control apps

1.     Our Pact

2.     Bark Technologies

3.    Life 360

So where’s the balance?

You wouldn’t give your child the keys to your limited-edition sports car before they had experience driving, would you? So why do we give our kids the keys to the Wild, Wild West of the digital world without a graduated licence of some kind?

The teenage brain isn’t fully formed, so they’re lacking impulse control and emotional regulation. It’s on us as parents to ease in by teaching your teen about social media BEFORE they have free reign and go astray – what’s ok and not ok to post, screen shots and screen recordings that might be posted and used in ways they didn’t intend, what’s cyber bullying and what to do about it, instant messages that disappear, keeping accounts private, typical predator questions in their DMs, etc.

This in an investment of time upfront, just like a learner’s licence, to increase success on the other end. Expecting teens to understand the impact and reach of their actions on a smartphone in the beginning is unfair and unrealistic.

They’re not going to get it perfect. Ever. And when they make a mistake, implement consequence that feel right for you (stating those boundaries up front is important) and make it clear how they’re going to earn that trust back. Even if you remove their phone for a time, stay in conversation to educate and empower your teen while you listen to understand their side.

Successful smartphone use comes from constant conversation and transparency to maintain trust, the foundation of every healthy relationship.

If you’d like more personalized answers to your teen smartphone challenges, join me in my private parenting community, The Empowered Parent Community, where I’ll be LIVE on Wednesday, July 28th at 1pmPT/4pmET.

Technology feels like parenting got twice as hard and there’s still no manual for this. Whether you’re at your wits end or worried about getting your teen a phone, you don’t have to do this alone.

Click below to join my private parenting community now and get specific answers without wading through hours of podcasts or scrolling the internet when you need to be sleeping.

I want personalized answers and a supportive community NOW!

Aly Pain

Growing up, I was the smart, fun girl on the outside and a frantic, anxious mess on the inside. I spent years healing the pain of dysfunctional family relationships, including eating disorders and a suicide attempt, to break the cycle raising my own teen boys.

Today, I’ve been happily married to my husband for over 23 years, and we have 2 incredible teen boys. My passion is empowering parents to build healthy, respectful relationships with their teens without giving up or giving up, even if they've tried everything and are at their wits end.

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