After a stressful week of college applications (and some high school-level anxiety and depression) my 16-year old asked me to take her phone for a week. I happily obliged. This is pretty much how the entire first day went — a kind of social detox. Being a kid is harder and weirder than it used to be.
Sets clock radio alarm for 8am, snoozes twice. Makes it to babysitting gig on time but on the wrong day. Digital calendars are something we’d taken for granted. Lots of coloring and a couple naps. Criticizes everyone in the house for their phone use.
Looks at Apple Screen Time and is horrified to discover 6–7 hours of TikTok, Snap and IG per day. Does the math and realizes if Social Media was her employer she’d be puttin’ away 2k per month.
Pro: your friends can’t text you and your Snap Map is off so they just pull up late on a Saturday night hoping you’re home and take you to Taco Bell.
Con: you can’t use your calculus app so you have to dig out a graphing calculator. (Why anyone is still doing math homework after sending transcripts to college is beyond me.)
Not an easy day.
Not gonna lie.
Turns out being without a phone is simpler on the weekend than it is while at school. Checking college application status on MacBook led to checking grades on Infinite Campus led to a few quick texts on iMessage led to FaceTime. An electronic unraveling.
We reevaluate what we’re doing and why. I remind her of the strides she’s making — getting to school on time and being more present at the dinner table. She reminds me that smartphones are the teenage playground and that social media opens up new avenues for friendship and interconnection. We agree that in this digital era some screen time will be necessary for forming social identity.
We make a trip to Half Price Books for some CDs because listening to car radio blows and NPR sucks.
Spends hours looking at old vids and photos. Uses the last of her babysitting money to buy expensive caffeine drinks.
Reminds me of the “no toy guns” rule parents initiate when their kids are toddlers. Immediately every stick, Lego and hot dog becomes a gun.
a fixed or movable upright partition used to divide, provide concealment or privacy.
To protect or shelter. To guard from injury or danger.
Was it worth it? Totally! But the stakes are high and it’s not something we wanna do again for quite a while — kind of like hiring a clairvoyant or giving yourself a coffee enema.
Here are the top 5 lessons we learned:
- Your true friends will not only adjust, they will make life easier for you.
- Flirting without a phone is challenging and awkward.
- Driving without GPS involves a good amount of panic.
- FOMO is formidable.
One of the unexpected realizations, for both of us, was the degree to which having a phone robs a kid of her childhood. And not just because she’s being exposed to all the adult stuff but because without the phone there’s a lot more time to do kid stuff — like wandering around outside and daydreaming and getting bored and being forced to find something creative to do.
Without the phone, I wasn’t inclined to text her and ask her to run errands for me. Without the phone she wasn’t able to check her bank account. Plans had to be made ahead of time and everyone had to stick to the plan. Not a lot of room for exceptions and negotiations when you can’t text each other at the last minute.
We knew a week without a phone would impose a lot of limitations. What we didn’t know was that living within those limitations would be its own kind of freedom.
Proud of you kiddo for givin’ it a whirl. Pretty sure I couldn’t do it myself.