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For Your Marriage

Married for 20 years and the proud parents of five children, Soren and Ever are co-founders of Trinity House Community, a Catholic nonprofit with a mission to inspire families to make home a small taste of heaven for the renewal of faith and culture.

Ending the Phone-Based Childhood

Not sure about you, but most families we know are touched in some way by the mental health crisis. So, when we saw the title of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s best-selling The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, we were intrigued.

As the summer draws on and we continue to grow in our Family Culture, we’re happy to share Family Culture takeaways we drew from Haidt:

  1. “We have overprotected our children in the real world while underprotecting them
    online.” Amen, Professor Haidt. Implicit in this statement are two mandates for Family
    Culture: nudge our kids out the door (and worry a lot less about the scrapes and falls) for
    the “play-based childhood” they deserve, and step up your online protection of your
  2. Reflect on whether the sky-high “opportunity cost of a phone-based childhood” is worth
    it. “Opportunity cost” is the “loss of other potential gains when one alternative is
    chosen.” If our Family Culture is phone-based and passive, then we have decided
    to forego “other potential gains” our children could have known (no need to delineate all
    of those potential gains here…every parent knows deep down that the joys of a
    flourishing Family Culture are available to us in the deep end, away from the phone-based shallows).
  3. Reflect on the proven near-term cost our children pay for a phone-based childhood:
    “social deprivation, sleep deprivation, attention fragmentation, and addiction.” When we
    compare these maladies to a Family Culture rich in relationships, peace, attentiveness, and
    flourishing, the choice seems obvious.
  4. Fill your Family Culture “with something noble and elevated” because if you don’t, “Modern society will quickly pump it full of garbage.” Haidt continues, “That has been true since the beginning of the age of mass media, but the garbage pump got 100 times more powerful in the 2010s.” Since the garbage pump is so powerful, parents today need to strive—by God’s grace, and in His peace—to infuse their homes with a love and attentiveness that, frankly, makes the phone seem like the reductionist tool that it is.
  5. Discuss Haidt’s “four norms” with your spouse: 1) “No smartphones before high school.” 2) “No social media before 16.” 3) “Phone-free schools.” 4) “More independence, free play, and responsibility in the real world.”

These 5 takeaways are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to read an abbreviated (about a 45-minute read) distillation of the book, read his Atlantic essay, “End the Phone-Based Childhood Now.” It is so refreshing when social science delivers the same verdicts and evidence that we as Christian parents tend to make via theology, morality, ethics, and common sense.

Parents who buck the trend of handing their young children a phone—and who instead double down on creating a Family Culture rich in play, true cultural pursuits, love, responsibility, attentiveness, and of course, faith—take courage! By God’s grace, let’s trade the phone-based childhood for the heaven-in-our-home-based childhood, starting today!