Thoughts on a life lived looking down


When our oldest daughters became teens a decade or so ago, none of their friends had cell phones. Since then electronic communication has exploded.  These days most young teens have cell phones, along with many elementary school kids.  And most of these phones have internet access built in right along with calling and texting. Everywhere I go, I see kids looking down at screens.  Walking down the road.  At stop lights. In restaurants. Even tiny children clutching screens sitting in shopping carts as their mothers shop. This is one trend we’re trying hard not to encourage with our kids.

Our 18 year old waited til 18 to get her first ‘dumb’ phone, and til high school graduation for a smart phone.  Our two 16 year old sons would love phones, and when they get their driver’s licenses in September, it would probably be really convenient.  But we really, really don’t want them to have the terrible temptation of internet any time, anywhere.  And we really don’t want them to live the last years of their childhood looking down at screens.  We’ve opted to charge one old ‘dumb’ tracfone with minutes, to be shared by both of them at times when it would be good for us to easily communicate with them.  Other communication can happen, in moderation, on our home phone and on facebook for 15 minutes or so most days. But not constantly.

As you might guess, some of our kids don’t love it.  They’re itching for more access, more ability to communicate with friends. And yes, we’re fully aware that once they’re out on their own, they’ll be making their own choices. When that time comes they may live for awhile constantly connected, heads down, tapping away at screens, forgetting to look up. But I don’t want that time to come just yet.  I want them to have a few more years to facing up and out, looking the ones around them in the eye, and sharing thoughts face to face.

Our hope is that more time in real life as kids will make it easier  for them to find a good and healthy balance later as adults.  To be the type of person who can use tools as they were intended, but also be able to set gadgets aside, maybe even for hours at a time, so that they can really live and breathe and inhabit the one precious, wild wonderful life that is theirs.

Other writing on this topic

The real reason I say no to electronics

What that ipad is doing to your kid

Are we starving the hearts of our children?



  1. Thank you for linking my post here. I love to see someone much further ahead in the parenting journey seeing the value in limiting screen time and encouraging others to follow. Thanks!

  2. Barbara says:

    Have you ever caught them sneaking screen time? How do you deal with it? We have tried to help our kids learn how to use screens as tools, and to limit themselves, and to make smart choices about the use of screens. They have all lost their phone and iPod privileges because of constantly breaking the rules. How are you able to enforce your rules when they spend time away from you?

    • Kids who sneak screen time lose their facebook password and facebook time for awhile. And we honestly don’t do ANY gadgets with internet until they are 18 (not ipods, kindles or anything). We have been more lenient in the past (especially with personal computers) but ended up realizing it may not have been wise.

  3. I love this post and love that there are others who have similar views with our children and cell phones!!! We are rare in the fact that our kids can’t actually text from our home but still have internet access. We only have one that we have allowed to have a smart phone and he will be a senior next year. Our freshman daughter just got her phone (not smart phone) before she started high school and of course wants to be like everyone else and get an iphone! She uses mine when she can…. I made a rule this year that the phones have a spot they stay after school (in our kitchen.) I believe, too, that when they are older they will have busier lives and be able to make better choices about how much time they use on their smart phones!!

  4. Mary this is certainly a hot button topic in families these days. The electronics have morphed into something that is disturbing. I can remember in high school the discussion being the invasion of the television and the harm it was causing the family. Where is the discussion on ‘doing away’ with all the electronic gadgets these days?
    My grandmother can remember when her father purchased the first television set on the block. Well this television set was plugged in to the outlet in the house with a cord running out the windows in the front of the house to the television sitting on the front lawn where all the neighbors gathered to watch a couple hours of television. Can a person even imagine doing that now. During the week it was moved closer to the house and covered with all the cords taped to the back to sit and wait for another week’s time. Viewing television was a community event and social time for families.
    No cellphones in our house at all. Everyone has to deposit them in a basket upon arriving and they are returned when leaving. Hate the things. Adult children can choose whether to have them or not. A mixed bag of decisions on that front. Of nine adult children: five do not have cellphones and have no plans of having one. I have never had one and no inclination to get one. While kids in high school, they never had one and never felt as though they were missing anything. Surprising as it may seem – kids’ friends love the time without them and baking, cooking, or playing fully engaged while with us. Have had several parents comment on how much their kids seem to enjoy being unplugged while at our house. Two of the kids’ friends decided to go without cellphone for six months and loved so much – after one year still haven’t purchased another.

  5. This was excellent! Thank you! My oldest is 11. I’m grateful for this article.

  6. My oldest is twelve and complains all the time that he is the only person at school without a phone. He does have an iPod. We have parental controls that severely limit what he can do on the internet. And his dad and I have the password for downloading new games, music, etc. he does not know the password. He can text, but all of his incoming and outgoing texts go through my phone. And I have on occasion reminded him and his friends that I am monitoring. Both kids have a time limit on electronics, but it is somewhat relaxed during the summer. But they are usually outside most days.