Parent With Teens at Wits End! How do we go backwards?



Looks like I’m a little late to this post, but thank you so much @bshupp for sharing your story and igniting such an important conversation.

I am not a parent, but I have 7 younger siblings that just so happen to include a set of 14 y.o. twins just like you. Watching their innocent fascination with technology grow into a full-fledged obsession over the years has been difficult to watch, to say the least. While I can’t fully relate to your experience as a parent, I suspect that the changes I crave from my siblings are not much different than those you and other parents long for from your children…

For starters, some more eye contact would be nice. If they could throw in a couple minutes a day of reflection, I’d be ecstatic. Unfortunately, with their mobile crutches always within arm’s reach, they’ve never experienced boredom long enough to watch it turn into the curiosity and creativity they displayed in their younger years.

The problem is exactly as you stated: “they don’t get it”. If only we could turn the endless research and documentaries into a candy crush level or a dank meme, then maybe it would speak to them the way it does to us. However, to echo @KeithFK, this authoritative approach is as futile as asking a teenager to do just about anything else.

As you pointed out, we can’t sit around and wait for technology to act more responsibly with their power; in our attention economy, the inhumane tech giants have no reason to change their ways. Ironically, this is the same problem we’re having with our youth. As @Lucian pointed out, they need an incentive to fill the void left by shutting down their dopamine slot machines.

This is where the next wave of humane technology steps in. Figuring out how to speak to them in a language they can relate to will be the key to swinging the pendulum back towards mindfulness and human interaction. I quit my day job to join this movement full-time and hopefully build a brand that can enter this space and incentivize better phone health in an effective, responsible way.

I am currently building a mobile application that will specifically empower parents on this mission and would love the opportunity to ask you some questions and/or run some of my plans by you. If you or anyone else on this board would be interested, shoot me a message! Either way, I am excited to have found such a passionate community and look forward to keeping you all posted on my progress.



Thank you Andrew for your response. Yes, I am very interested in answering any questions that you may have.


Ha, ha! But, interestingly I’ve come to notice something. I think we have really needed to actively teach compassion and good communications all along! It’s just that social media is bringing it to a head. Look at the quality of adults we have in leadership and powerful positions in America and you’ll know what I mean . . .


Hi Andrew!

I would love to learn more about what you are doing and thank you!!




Things are going really well in our family, but the contract is but one piece. It is what we refer to now when we have to impose a consequence, etc… But, I would say what has helped the most has been the sharing of the “why” with our son. I share with him, for example, that he can only play X-box for an hour on Friday, Sat and Sunday (and only after 12pm) because we want him to learn the value of “space”. We explain that part of his growing up involves his healthy use of space. Space to eat, sleep, read, be out doors, and yes, play Xbox. I have built in a morning ritual where I place a drop of essential oil on our palms and then breath it in before I pull a card for an inspirational saying for the day. We are building a habit life around space and appreciation. Its our anecdote to a distracted world :slight_smile:


Got it- we have this issues in our public schools- it’s a vacuum.


I might be persuaded otherwise, but I am 100% persuaded that we cannot ‘educate’ children out of this - which if true is important as so often people argue that education is the best way to get people to change.

The allure of certain forms of tech is so acutely designed to spark dopamine in the teenage brain that in all practical senses this is so addictive that without dose control a large number will become addicted. The only solution as far as I can see is restricting access - reducing the contact hours - between teenage brains and tech. That cannot be the only goal of human tech for teenagers but to my mind it should be the top goal.

Principally, this is on us as parents to set boundaries. As with any boundary setting, you are in a heap of difficulty if it is not done early - and it is difficult if people around you (eg. schools) undermine your efforts.


There needs to be a divide in education- schools with tech and schools without. Washington DC public schools do this.

Kids need to reclaim their right to develop naturally- but with schools introducing technology so young it’s imposdible- schools also steer parents to be in schreens with their multiple apps and notifications on twitter and Facebook.

I’m loosing respect for education as a profession- nobody from an professional education association has taken a stand on this- not one mention that some kids first exposure to distracting screens is in schools.

Stand up and say something teachers so we know you care…


While I believe education is a good tool to fight tech addiction, I agree that this cannot be the only way we combat the issue. Maybe it is possible to substitute addictive tech with other dopamine-inducing activities. For example, we could encourage kids to have fun exercising or exploring the outdoors.

We need to help young people find other recreational things to do besides tech. Some parents I know try to substitute their children’s screen time with homework and chores. This approach will never effectively wean teens off of tech IMO since doing work doesn’t generate dopamine for most people. Instead, we should help kids find ways to entertain themselves without getting trapped by technology.

Does anybody else have ideas about helping teens have fun offline?


I’m a journalist and adjunct professor (in Missouri) working on a story about the emerging concept of humane tech and keeping up with tween and teen tech as a parent.

I’m looking for an app developer or tech industry professional who could speak to or about the issue.
Please let me know if any of you involved in this discussion group would be willing or know someone who may be? No pressure, I’m just trying to cast a wide net due to the fact humane tech isn’t a widespread notion yet (sadly).

Tanks so much,


Thanks for posting! Are you looking for tech advice or advice related to what is humane technology?


I’ll take either, but ideally someone who can speak to the onset/beginning of humane technology as a trend within app development.


The leadership in the tech industry seems to be so profit driven people are not speaking out. By now the app developers know the harm that can be started with non research based education apps that stimulate dopamine receptors- which causes addiction.

The best thing we can do is spread the word about harmful health consequences and refuse to participate in supporting non humane tech type businesses… even if it is inconvenient.


Agreed. That’s definitely why I’m struggling to find a source who is able to talk about changing the technology to be less harmful to kids.


Well… maybe it’s time for people to wake up and realize kids were learning ok before all this. Do kids have to be on tech devices? It is the only time to develop social skills etc… introducing the push button culture too soon impairs social cognitive development. There are 20 year olds who struggle socially because those skills were not developed younger. Now that generation is left out in the dark.

I don’t think school should be the first place kids are exposed to that dopamine rush, or st least have a choice in the matter. I’m making myself very unpopular but I can see it everyday in my daughters school.


Grateful for this thread! Just got done preaching the get phones out of schools gospel to an education conference in Charlotte. I see it as we have a 6-7 hour window in the day to teach children focus patience and how to be without their devices.

Some replies below:

@willmattei @bshupp

I’m always skeptical when the answer to tech is more tech… but I had a conversation with the founder of this: currently working in Australia and she seems to be having awesome results.

"Our product is live in market, is making good revenue and has resulted in 2,000 children doing a combined 100M steps:
10 mins on our app = 60 mins of outside play.

Kids are loving it - 8X industry retention. Parents are loving it - Kids are putting down their phones and running back outside."

Launching soon in US

@AngieB you can email me your questions,

@bshupp the question “How does this app/game make you feel afterwards” is likely not going to solve all your problems, but worth introducing into the way they’re thinking. On my 18 hour Halo benders as a kid if you’d asked me if I liked Halo I’d tell you I loved it. If you asked me how it made me feel that would have been a different story.

@bbrunner can you tell us more about what this entailed?


Wow. But if they want to get around it they can and will. If not, I envy you that your kids are so well-behaved and/or non-addicted.


Tried lots of strategies and she got around every single one or flat out disobeyed sneakily. Took the phone away 6 months ago and it’s been wonderful. I’d like to hold out until end of high school. It will be easier when someone builds and sells a non-internet enabled phone for the under 21 set.


Family Media Plan from American Academy of Pediatrics:


I would like to suggest a slightly different approach.

Here is a quote from the English poem Hudibras by Samuel Butler.

He that complies against his will,
Is of his own opinion still,
Which he may adhere to, yet disown,
For reasons to himself best known.

The first two lines are significant. Trying to force someone to be a certain way or impose restrictions on their life (even if it is your child) is not the most effective way to go about making a change. Why? Refer to the first two lines of the poem.

If kids/teens see the negative effects of using their phone all day, they will give it up (or at least want to). When they are willing to make a change in their lives, that is when you can support them with advice and possibly restrictions.

@KulaMama That is a thorough, well-written contract. However, I have a question about these two points:

  1. Phone curfew. My phone must be turned off by 8:30 p.m. every night and placed in front of the TV in mom and dad’s bedroom.
  2. Family meals. During meals, my phone will be silenced and placed away from the table.

Do you also follow these guidelines? If not, your son will not believe that there are benefits to be gained by following these rules. If, on the other hand, he sees that people sleep better by not using their phones before going to bed and that people have meaningful conversations during family meals (or just focus on their food; that’s also fine), he will be more inclined to follow the rules because the rules are good for him, not because he must follow the rules.