Holidays, Kids

A phone use argument with teens + Mother’s Day weekend

Phones at school

Last week we got into a big “discussion” with the boys about taking their phones to school (or not).

Ever since they got cell phones around Christmastime, we have not allowed their phones to go to school with them. What for?! They are at school.

Well, during play rehearsals a couple weeks ago, there were a few days where I asked Ethan to take his phone to school, so he could call me after when he needed to be picked up.

Unfortunately, this sort of “scratched the itch”, if you will….and he realized, hey, I like taking my phone to school!! (Of course.) Asher jumped on board with the idea, too, claiming that “everyone brings their phones to school now.” This suddenly became VERY IMPORTANT to them, which kind of confused me…because, again, they’ve had phones for months and never have been allowed to take them to school. And they’d never complained.

(At their school, the teachers confiscate all phones at the beginning of the day, and they are stored in labeled pouches inside a locked closet in the classroom. So the kids don’t actually have access to their phones during school hours- this is actually all about “the bus ride”, or before/after school time.)

My immediate, gut-reaction answer was: NO, of course you are not taking your phone to school. Why on earth would that be necessary??

Their answers, as stated above, involved things like: “Everyone has their phone on the bus.” “It’s boring to just sit there.” (THEY ARE THE LAST STOP IN THE MORNING, and the FIRST STOP IN THE AFTERNOON. They are literally on the bus for like, 5 minutes. Sorry, I don’t have a ton of sympathy re: enduring 5 minutes of boredom. I used to be on the bus for like, 40 minutes when I was in school!)

I asked why they can’t just, you know, talk to their friends on the bus.

Apparently, “everyone” just “plays on their phone” on the bus, so if they don’t also have a phone, there’s nothing to do. Ummm……. seriously?!!? Every kid just sits and looks at a phone? That seems very….sad.

They then continued that they really like those 5-10 minute to sort of veg out on the bus, check in on their games (I guess a lot of games have little daily challenges, etc. that they like to do quickly each day), and they don’t see the problem, since the phone then goes in the closet for the rest of the day. They work hard at school, with no phones, they stay very busy with extracurriculars after school and their grades are great. (*These arguments were a bit more compelling- I can see some of their points here…and honestly, I like to check my phone in the morning and on breaks, too….๐Ÿ˜ฌ).

Anyway, I told them we needed to think about it and talk more about it.

On the one hand, I don’t like to just say “no” basically for the sake of saying no. It is only a few minutes we’re talking about. On the other hand, I struggle with the idea of phones taking over teens’ lives. It really seems the kids could just sit and talk on the bus without needing to be on their phones! Is this what the world is coming to?? Constantly plugged in, from middle school (or before) on?? Sigh.

Ivan pointed out that it is quite the pickle, though. Because, even if we don’t let the boys take their phones to school, we can’t control what other families are doing. If all the other kids actually DO have their phones along and are playing on them, it’s true- my boys would then just be….sitting there. Which kind of defeats the whole point. It’s not like the other boys will put their games away just because Ethan and Asher don’t have theirs along.

(Example- Ivan drove the soccer carpool (of 14 year old boys) last week, right here in town (i.e. short drive). He said that literally the minute the boys got in the car, the other boys were both immediately looking at their phones. One of the boys even popped his Air Pods in and was watching a video!!! (Ethan didn’t have his phone along, so he just talked with Ivan.) Sigh again. Apparently, this is a pretty universal issue. I mean, the boys do hang out and talk, too, at practice/ before/ after- it’s not like they never interact! But this “constantly on the phone in the carpool” thing seems relatively new. I see it in the swim carpool, too.)

I’m not really sure what exactly to do. As I’ve thought more about it, I’m not sure that it’s really my “parenting hill to die on”, either, though. I am not sure those 5-10 minutes before and after school are truly a HUGE problem worth going to battle over, exactly. Of course, I don’t want to just cave to peer pressure, either, but we might be better off looking at the big picture on this one. Focusing on overall screen time/ balanced, appropriate use, etc. The truth is- all teens use phones nowadays! It’s just reality of the times, and probably developmentally normal for them to desire this (in moderation).

The peer issue is a very complex one, too, especially at this age. I read an article recently about teens and screens, and there was a long comment written by a teenage girl. Her mom had very strict phone use rules, including a rule that she couldn’t use her phone past 8 pm, ever. Well, apparently all of this girl’s best friends would usually do a big Facetime group call many evenings, just chatting and all hanging out while they like did their nails or whatever. It was a very important, fun social time, with all of her best friends, and she could NOT attend (even on Fridays!), because of her mom’s (kind of arbitrary sounding?) strict rule. In the comments, this girl was SO distraught and miserable over this “rule” that my heart literally broke for her!! She said, “This is ruining my life!!! I am missing out on so much that all my other friends are getting to do.” And I don’t doubt that it truly feels that way for her. In that case, it really seemed like some negotiation and understanding was maybe in order on the mom’s part.

Obviously, our issue isn’t that extreme, but still. I do want to be mindful and respectful of the kids’ viewpoints on all of this, too. Which involves really listening to them- sometimes they actually have really great, well-thought-out reasons for why they want something (and other times, not so much ๐Ÿ˜†). But I’d rather be reasonable, when I can and when it makes sense (while still upholding our family values), versus running a household dictatorship of “because I said so” rules.

Oh, parenting in the digital age. Good times.


A few Mother’s Day pics!!

I had a great weekend, full of volleyball games, soccer tournaments, visiting with my own mother, and multiple pizzas. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ(Full disclosure- the macro tracking was, uh, weak this weekend….what can I say. Back on the horse this week….:) )

Me and my mom on Mother’s Day morning!

My treats!!!

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for working in the sunroom yesterday….we’re having a sudden heat wave!! Worked with the screen door open and it was so nice.

14 thoughts on “A phone use argument with teens + Mother’s Day weekend”

  1. I am so glad phones and ubiquitous photo taking was not a thing when I was a teenager. It sounds very challenging to navigate what the norms are for your own family and how that interacts with the norms of other families. Also, teenage feelings are so big. I don’t envy your decision and I wish you luck coming up with something everyone can agree on!

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  2. I was listening to a podcast this morning called “People I mostly admire” with Steve Levitt (who co-wrote Freakonomics) called “turning work into play” and they talked about our inability to handle boredom and how it has probably gotten worse w/ the advent of cell phones and such. We are just constantly entertained! I do not look forward to introducing cell phones and dealing with policing them. But I like that your kids’ school has a strict policy about phones during the school day! It is sad to hear that kids just get on their phones when carpooling and such, though!

    You and your mom really resemble each other! Sounds like you had a nice Mother’s Day weekend! We had a good weekend, too. The weather was beautiful on Saturday so we were outside a ton! Sunday was a less nice day but it cleared up in the afternoon so we could take the boys to a park. And then yesterday was bizarrely hot/humid – it got up to 87! Midwest weather is so weird!

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    1. Yes, the “constantly being entertained” thing is a big worry of mine, maybe because I feel like this is an issue for ME more than ever these days, too. I’ll have to check out that podcast. I like Freakanomics. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. Yes, it’s a worry for everyone for sure – we are so used to easy access to something to distract or entertain! I don’t listen to every episode of the podcast, but there are some interesting ones. The episode I mentioned was an interview with a Harvard psychology professor. But he had dropped out of high school, lived in a bus with friends, and then stumbled into psychology in a community college. But then he went on to get a PhD at Princeton. So he had a really unique path to his esteemed position at Harvard! The host seems to interview people with interesting paths.

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  3. Oh my goodness, I am NOT looking forward to the day (in the too-near future) when my husband and I have to make decisions like that about phones etc! Ugh! I wouldnโ€™t know what to do, either! My response would probably be something strict and probably arbitrary, LOL. But I do understand that devices have become a part of kidsโ€™ social lives and so there has to be some give and take. Ugh! Not fun!

    I am also very envious of your Heath treats! I love a Heath bar. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It’s so hard!!! I tend to be a little indecisive sometimes, too- I’m just not always sure what the right answer is, I doubt myself, etc…. Ugh! If I figure it all out before you get there, I’ll let you know. LOL!

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  4. I do not envy you for having to deal with this – although I will say that it sounds like you have strict rules around phone use at home, too and your boys are very active and engaged in school and all that. Still, I understand your apprehension of just letting them take their phones along.

    Different times, different issues… I am glad we didn’t have cell phones around when I was a teenager, but there were other things other kids seemed to be allowed to do and my sister and I were not. When we argued “but everyone else is doing XYZ”, my parents simply replied “you’re not everyone”. Point taken. Haha.

    I hope you find a way to handle this in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

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    1. I sometimes feel like we are strict, sometimes way too lenient. Depends on the day! haha! I mean, I think we have some reasonable rules, etc, but I also feel like sometimes we are a bit “all over the place”/ not decisive enough. Then again, it’s hard to always take a hard line, because things with kids often need to be fluid and flexible.. reality is, different situations can call for different decisions…. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and encouragement. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I, too, am SO glad this wasn’t a “thing” when I was a kid. But, now, it is a “thing” and I have kids and…sigh.
    We actually had company last night (who have sons that are 13 and 16) and we spoke at length about the cell phone pickle. It is so tricky because people tend to assume teens will have phones (one of my friends has a 14-year-old who basically had no access to a phone at schools anymore because they assume kids will be able to call their own parents when they need to be picked up from practice).
    At this point neither of our kids has phones and since we work in technology I feel like we’re extra hesitant to let our kids get phones/tech of their own.
    I understand the bored thing as I notice it in myself. I am so used to pulling out my phone to check e-mail or browse the internet or, today, on a drive to a trail, I looked up natural weed killer recipes with vinegar, salt, and dishsoap. A decade ago I would have just been a happy passenger, but today I was productive. I get these “itches” to look things up and it’s so hardwired now to be able to do just that.
    I mostly leave my phone home when I go for a walk these days, and I turn it off completely at night, so my phone use is pretty good, but there is just such a delicate balance that never had to be considered before.

    Happy Mother’s Day! Looks fabulous and, as Lisa said, you and your Mom look SO much alike which I just love, love, love!

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    1. Well, what did your company say?!? Did they figure out the secret answer to all of this?? Hahaha!! Let me know!!!

      It is all tough! There are things that come up that you just don’t even really think that much about until you get there…or things that you *think* you’ll never do, but then suddenly everything changes and it seems hard NOT to do whatever it was you said you’d never do…hehe!

      You seem like you have a good handle on your phone use, so that’s great. I’m sure your kids will see your good example, which will hopefully help down the road! I do love to listen to podcasts when I walk, but sometimes a good old fashioned silent walk is wonderful, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. They DON’T have it figured out at all (my company). I’m just trying not to worry too much about it now; the time will come and I know certain circumstances (i.e. a child that comes home alone after school or someone in a late extracurricular) will require thinking through things on a different level. But I know it’s coming and I am definitely dreading navigating it all!

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  6. Indeed, a difficult decision whether to allow the phones to school or not, especially if it’s just about enduring 5 minutes of boredom. I keep thinking about what I would have done. Maybe tell the kids that I will increase their screen time at home if they agreed to not take phones to school ๐Ÿค” and suggest some alternatives to keep them busy on the bus rides, like a riddle book, or a Kindle or an audio device to listen to books or music instead ?!? Not an easy decision …
    Loved the mother’s day pics โค

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  7. peer pressure is definitely an important factor, a hard one to navigate.i understand the communication factor of the phone. what I plan to do with Sofia when she’s old enough to require calling me, I’ll give her a old style phone that she can text and call, not smart phone that can play video games. the argument I would give which is the same argument I give when they tell me their friends watch TV everyday is that I love them more, I want to take care of them, that TV is not good for their eye sights and mental development. over time, they understood and whenever the topic comes up, they will say proudly that their mom is taking care of them. obviously with teenager, the strategy might need to be changed, but the overall principle is the same: do what is right for you, not what is easy for you. my two cents on this challenging journey. ๐Ÿ™‚

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