We went to the woods…

Last month, I chaperoned a freshmen retreat at our high school. For three days, 100 of us lived differently—in cabins, walking miles across the camp, eating meals together at long tables, challenging ourselves with archery, rock climbing, and epic games. 

The most significant challenge? No phones. 

Suddenly living with each other, without our phones for most of the day, was interesting and uncomfortable. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m a mom to four teenagers and I see how invested they are in their snapchat streaks and daily dose of YouTube.  

And yet? It happened. 

Yes, meals were rambunctious when these freshmen had face-to-face conversations instead of losing themselves in Instagram reels. And yes, it took longer for everyone to wind down at night without the usual scrolling. But the change felt really good.

Of course, kids missed their phones—but not as much as you would think. Actually, most said they liked connecting with their friends IRL rather than over a screen. 

A handful of kids LOVED it. They vowed to change their phone habits at home—and asked their families to do the same. One girl told me this truth, “So much time on my phone isn’t good for me.”

Data & Digital Devices.

Parents, you already knew this. Last May, I surveyed families and asked how I could best help their high school student succeed. Of those who responded, 78% (!) said their teen needed more phone-free time.

This tracks with national data. Over 80% of parents want to reduce their teens’ phone dependence—and the benefits of that are proven. Less time on your phone means you get more sleep, spend less money, and feel happier. We’re all less cynical when we’re not scrolling snark on social media.

Victims Complain. Heroes change habits.

So, why don’t we break up with our phones? We’re stuck. Our routines feel so comfortable, we don’t see the cycles clearly. Breaking a habit means pinpointing the trigger (time or activity) and replacing the activity. The process takes awareness, vulnerability to want to change, and accountability.  

God created us for real connection (Romans 15:1-2) and intentional phone-free time helps your family do that. Even though you can’t live in the woods to break your teen’s phone habit, you can carve out intentional times to connect. 

Cut the cord three times a day.

In the car… instead of zoning out, train your teen to pay attention to traffic. Not only will this teach them to be less distracted drivers, it will also give you time to chat.

At mealtime… Even in our fast-food schedules, mealtime is for connecting, not scrolling. Ask your teen intentional questions (when did you laugh today? where did you see courage?)

Bedtime… Teens need more sleep. Help them by insisting they charge their phones outside their rooms. This physical change will help them break the habit of nighttime scrolling.

This is Coaching.

As a Growth Coach, I can help your teen identify places they’re stuck. Schedule a session and I’ll help you improve your study habits, build an exercise routine, or break your addiction to social media.

Your teen comes with a habit they want to change and I coach them through the process. In between sessions, they’ll work on their goals and then report their progress. I help them turn their hopes and ideas into action plans.

If I can serve you in any way, please reach out. I’m a great listener and love to connect. I’ve worked with teens for 25+ years, am the author of 12 books, and love to coach teens. 

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