How Can You Help Your Teens Use their SmartPhones Wisely?

by | Aug 5, 2020 | Parenting Teens | 1 comment

Smartphones have changed everything in our families.

Today’s parents have had to integrate smartphones and social media into our lives. Our kids’ generation has grown up with them. But what has been the effect? And how can we, as parents, be responsible as we help our kids manage cell phone use?

My friend Barrett Johnson runs an awesome organization called Info for Families, where he tries to equip families to be proactive about having difficult conversations with our kids, so that we can mentor and guide them. He’s done some work developing a strategy for parents to engage with their kids around cell phone use, and I invited him to share with us today!

Affiliate links follow below.

Some experts say that young people today have been part of a ten-year experiment to determine the effects of constant technological and social connection on our lives.

The data is just coming in and the findings are troubling.

In an article titled “Has the Smartphone Destroyed A Generation?” psychologist Jean M. Twenge writes that parents should be alarmed. The article is worth a read.

Among other things, Twenge writes that…

  • “Rates of teen depression have skyrocketted since 2011.” (That’s when smartphone use became more commonplace.)
  • Psychologically, teenagers today are “more vulnerable than millennials.” (Millennials integrated smartphones into their lives while teenagers today have literally grown up with them.)
  • They are on “the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades.” (We are just beginning to see the severity of the problem.)

What is the root cause of the mental health crisis in teens that is occurring?

Twenge says,

“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

Add to that a recent CDC study that found that suicide rates among teenage girls are at a 40-year high. The most obvious culprit is the power and influence of social media. Vulnerable girls already prone to insecurity or depression are fueling their pain with a constant stream of comparison.

To make things worse, your teenager might be physically present in your home, but he is likely far more connected to the influence of his peers than the influence of his family. If that influence is primarily negative (and it usually is), our kids’ well-being will suffer. That will be the case unless you do something about it.

What is a parent to do to handle the threat of smartphones?

As parents, must be intentional to train our kids to use their smartphones with wisdom. As with every other dimension of parenting, you need to have a plan.

But what can you do to prepare them for the impact that a smartphone will have on their hearts and minds? How will you help them navigate the pressures of social media? How will you protect them from explicit content or even online predators? How can you equip them to use their phones with wisdom?

Finally, there’s a powerful tool that can help you manage your teen’s cell phone use.

Smartphones 101 is an online digital course for families. With 10 short video lessons and 35 printable pages of resources, families can go through the course together. Whether you’re preparing your child for their first smartphone or you’re wanting to reel in your teenager whose phone habits are getting out of control, Smartphones 101 can help.

Preparing your kids to use smartphones well

It effectively tees up the critical conversations you need to have in your home about “the basics of smart phone use.”


Ten Video Lessons

Watch them on your computer or smartphone. The lessons are brief, so they cover some important info before anyone has time to get bored.

Discussion Guides and Other Resources

Each video includes an interactive “guide” for each person to take notes. Plus there are plenty of additional resources that will come in handy.

Meaningful Conversations

Our goal is to get families talking. So we introduce some valuable truths and ideas, and then give you tools to discuss them with your kids.

Teaching Kids about Smart Phones

As a parent, you’re probably worried about:

  • The impact of smartphones on their brain development.
  • The increase in anxiety and depression in kids due to social media pressures.
  • Online predators and who might be trying to connect with your kids when you’re not looking.
  • How much time they spend on their phones, and how that is impacting their relationships in real life.
  • The explicit content and porn that kids regularly stumble onto via their phones.
  • How you can adjust the settings and then provide guidance and oversight to your kids as they learn to use their phones.

How Does Smartphones 101 Work?

We recommend having your child or teenager go through the entire course as a pre-requisite for getting a phone. (Or as a requirement to continue using the phone they have.) Spend a few weeks going through the 10 lessons. Simply watch a video together as a family and then use the provided discussion guide to talk about it. The course isn’t a replacement of you; it’s a resource to help you talk about all those things that concern you. The good news is that you don’t have to be the bad guy…I am! And I could care less if your kids don’t like me. 😉

Find out more about Smartphones 101!

And use coupon code Sheila at checkout to get 20% off!

Barrett coaches families through his non-profit, Imperfect & Normal Families Only (I.N.F.O. for Families). He speaks nationally on the challenges of contemporary parenting. He is the author of The Talks, The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness, and Meet Me in the Middle.

He and his wife Jenifer had four kids who became teenagers in the early days of the smartphone. He saw the value that phones added to their lives, but also saw first-hand some of the harm that they can do. Smartphones 101 was created to help imperfect & normal families to equip their kids to get this right. (He also looks forward to taking his “tweenager” through this course in a few years.)

“We have launched 4 kids into adulthood. During their teen years, phones sort of caught us off guard. So I’ve spent years researching and preparing to help families to get it right. As a speaker, author, and former family minister, I’ve worked with thousands of families. I know the struggles they face. The teen drama and bullying. The obsession with social media. Kids exposed to (and hooked on) explicit content. Even predators reaching out to kids. Smartphones are awesome, but the potential dangers are huge. Let me help you help your kids to be smart on their phones.”

Barrett Johnson

Smartphones 101 Teacher

Do you think it’s harder for teens to navigate social life today with the advent of smart phones? What effects have you seen? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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1 Comment

  1. Kristen

    Hi, Sheila. I was 16 in 2011, so I definitely missed growing up without a cell phone in hand. I do think it makes it harder for kids to navigate social life, and having worked several years in food service and retail, I would say it makes it harder for them to navigate the workforce, as well. Every boss I’ve had on the last two or three years has told me no phones allowed in the building. I have no problem with that at all, but I’ve seen many younger employees sneak them in and take frequent restroom breaks just so they can check their phones. I’ve also seen more than one employee fired over cell phones on the job. If it costs you your job, then you have a serious problem.


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