5 Ways to Roll Back the Phone-Based Childhood

by | Mar 28, 2024

In Jonathan Haidt’s The Anxious Generation, he boldly states:

“…the Great Rewiring of Childhood, in which the phone-based childhood replaced the play-based childhood, is the major cause of the international epidemic of adolescent mental illness.”

And he cites a lot of evidence to prove it.

We know that a phone-based childhood has affected many aspects of children’s health, not only mental, but physical and social as well. In addition, kids have been exposed to inappropriate content much too soon, affecting their language, behavior, and interactions with peers. (Just ask any teacher or school counselor who’s been in schools longer than the past decade.)

Mixing smartphones and childhood has been a disaster.

As a former teacher and mom of 5, I’m sharing five things you can do starting TODAY to roll back the phone-based childhood and return to a play-based childhood.

1️⃣ Touch objects, not “touch screens.”

When my kids were toddlers, we had a set of ABC magnets. I would sit down on the floor in front of the fridge and practice the letters over and over, placing them on the fridge and practicing the sounds.

Touch objects, not “touch screens.”

With my younger kids, there were suddenly apps to help little ones learn their ABC’s, but I learned that kids learn best in a physical environment with a parent at their side.

See this as an opportunity for you to connect with your child face to face rather than you both looking at a screen.

As Dr. Dimitri Christakis has said, “Kids need laps, not apps.”

2️⃣ Make your phone yours.

Handing your child your phone might seem like a great way to keep your child entertained, but in the long run, kids learn to turn to a screen to deal with uncomfortable emotions, rather than learning healthy coping strategies and how to turn to a parent.

Make your phone yours.

Believe me, I get it. I was a mom pre-smartphones and when my phone became an option, I started to occasionally use it when kids were inconsolable. But it felt “off,” and after watching my kids’ behavior afterward (it was worse!) and doing more research about touch screens, I made the decision to make my phone MINE only. #bestdecision

Kids will learn this boundary and won’t ask for your phone!

3️⃣ Pack your bag like an “80’s mom.”

When you’re headed out (to an appointment, a live event, or a road trip) plan ahead and pretend devices don’t exist. Then they won’t become the default. Think: paper, a clipboard, colored pencils, stickers, reading books, activity books, etc.

Pack your bag like an “80’s mom.”

Screens don’t have to be the default for your kids.

4️⃣ Reset the room.

Prime your home environment so your kids and teens see the things your family loves!

Reset the room.

For us this is: books, games, puzzles, cooking, the outdoors…What are the things your family loves?

5️⃣ Avoid addictive tech for kids.

Social media, gaming, and an internet browser are the biggest culprits.

Avoid addictive tech for kids.

Choose tech with purpose and introduce it slowly!


How will you help your kids escape the “phone-based” childhood?

Get the help you need inside the Tech-Healthy Family Hub!

In the Tech-Healthy Family Hub you’ll learn from experts and like-minded parents, access proven resources, and take our self-guided courses to prepare your family to navigate a tech-heavy world with confidence.

Let’s take the slow tech road together. We’ll reduce screen time, restore family connection, and raise kids and teens who thrive.

Join us here!

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The Anxious Generation is here!

The Anxious Generation is here!

This book should be required reading for every Big Tech CEO and employee, parent, teacher, school administrator, and really—everyone.