Our Top Tips for Teens Who Are Glued to Their Phones

The school year keeps teens very busy. Even with fully remote or hybrid schedules, they wake up early, take classes for the majority of the day, do their homework, participate in sports or extracurricular activities, and get as much as sleep as they can. So, fortunately for them, the summer can be an opportunity for them to have a little breathing room, relax, and simply be a teen. However, I think the parents who’ve been home with their kids over the last week or two can all agree on one thing…


We’ve probably all said it: “Back in my day, we didn’t even have cell phones…” And yes, that’s the truth. And we did just fine! However, it’s important to acknowledge the element of connectedness that Gen Z and the following generations possess. Thanks to the advancement of technology (most notably the variety of social media networks like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and more) teens are able to be more in touch than ever and engage in the world around them in a way that was never possible for us. The sense of community and camaraderie that is fostered from this connectedness is pretty amazing!
That being said, it’s also not okay for teens to sit around, scrolling all day! It’s not good for our health, physically OR mentally. In fact, for many, it can actually be an addiction. Have you ever noticed how your teen (or you?) reflexively reach for their phone, even if they don’t have something specific to check?

It’s vital the teens in your life know that there’s a time and a place for technology, social media, and smart phone use. Although it has many benefits, technology has some downsides that we need to consider. We should be considering these “cons,” so to speak, for the social, psychological, and physical health of our younger generation.

Here are some factors to ponder:

  • We text or email rather than talk. This is having significant consequences on communication skills—ask any college professor or employer. We now have a bull market in remedial reading and writing programs, and many young people are having difficulty carrying on face-to-face conversations with adults. Good luck with those job interviews!
  • Our lives are more distracted because of our numerous interruptions (a text message, a new Facebook message, an Instagram comment, an event reminder, an e-mail, etc.) and our attention spans have shrunk.
  • Kids spend less time using their imaginations, reading, and being active. We lose the ability to read body language and social cues in other people.
  • Our waistlines are growing as we’ve become more sedentary.
  • We sleep poorly, as online activities keep us up too late and the constant stream of information makes it difficult to turn off our brains. Also, staring at a screen before bedtime can mess up our internal clock and make sleep more difficult.
  • We are being consumed by “busyness” and it is affecting our responsiveness to true priorities, such as family togetherness, activity, spirituality, service, etc.

I know I’m probably sounding like Fred Flintstone (well, when I was a teen, an in-state long distance call was $3 a minute!), but I believe there’s some middle ground. When I hear about car accidents occurring because of drivers’ texting, or when I see kids texting when they’re supposed to be enjoying each other’s company (I’ve also seen the same from grown adults when they’re supposed to be out on a date), I think the pendulum may have swung too far.
Here are some ways you can encourage the young people in your life to be smart about technology use as they spend more time at home this summer. Let’s help them (and us!) find that middle ground:

  • Strongly consider setting technology-free hours within your home. For example, between the hours of 6pm and 7pm for dinner, and from 10pm until morning.
  • Parents, place limits on the amount of time your children spend on technology each day. Be on guard for any collateral damage from technology use (e.g., relationships, communication, productivity, motivation, anxiety, attention spans, irritability). 
  • Lead by example (THIS ONE IS HUGE!) and show the teens you know how to enjoy life’s special moments without their phone. Go for a walk and enjoy good conversation (no need to post a filtered Instagram shot of the scenery!). Go outside and play volleyball or basketball. Go for an all-day hike on the weekend, and challenge everyone to leave their phones alone the entire time.
  • Disengage from phone use when you’re together at coffee shops, restaurants, and the like. All too often I’ve seen parents as phone addicted in public as their kids. Isn’t this supposed to be “quality time?”
  • If you’re a teacher, make sure your classroom is a phone-free zone if at all possible. Encourage practices that help strengthen your students’ creativity, activity, and resourcefulness.
  • Remember that setting boundaries/limits on technology use can be the greatest source of “fireworks” between parents and their teens. However, it’s important parents stay strong on this one because the love you exert today will pay off in productivity and greater health for them in the years to come.  

Time is a precious asset and that relationships are designed to be personal. Your brain was designed to be active. Your body was designed to move. Don’t let your electronic devices interfere with any of that.

Enjoy your summer with each other and hopefully as much screen-free time as possible!

Two Words for a Fulfilling Life

An annual highlight of mine is visiting an area 8th grade class that uses our What I Wish I Knew at 18 curriculum for its Life Skills class. The students submit their questions in advance, and I answer as many as I can. They have an uncanny knack of asking great questions, and this year was no different. My favorite one:

“What are your two tips for a fulfilling life?”

Simple as that! Yet profound and deserving of my best thinking, for sure. After some serious contemplation, I came up with my answer: Grit and Gratitude. Each powerful in their own right, but simply magnificent in combination.


Let’s start with grit. Growing up, this word had a distinctly negative connotation—a cross between grimy and dirty. However, nowadays, in a new form, it’s made quite a comeback! Success experts, as well as my own research and observation of leaders, point to grit as a quintessential ingredient. 

Although definitions vary, I describe “grit” as a composite of vision, focus, effort, and resilience. For example, using an Olympics analogy:

  • Vision is becoming the Gold Medalist
  • Focus is organizing my life (time management, diet, sleep, practice) to achieve my vision
  • Effort is my work ethic (discipline, efficiency, effectiveness) and determination
  • Resilience is my ability to overcome and grow from adversity and obstacles; relentlessness 

Importantly, each is required for our goals to be achieved. Whether one is an Olympian or a student setting goals for adulthood, grit is the secret ingredient to making dreams come true. Like you, I’m excited to hear the stories of grit that we’ll be treated to in the upcoming Summer Olympics (I’m reminded of the film, “Miracle,” that recounted the US Olympic Hockey team’s Herculean upset of the Soviets in 1980.). And I’m likewise inspired to hear the stories of how our graduates showed grit to achieve their goals. What a great class/home project to have your students/children share their experiences where their grit made all the difference!

But a life of fulfillment isn’t just about achieving goals, is it? 


Have you known people who, despite their circumstances, are filled with joy? And others, who despite their circumstances, are sourpusses? Like most, I am drawn to people who lift our spirits through their own. They remain positive, hopeful, and peaceful through thick and thin. You see it in their countenance—especially their eyes and mouth, and in their words, expressions, and attitudes. 

How is it that some people are joyful (which to me is a notch above happy) and others less so? Is it genetics or from some inner catalyst?

I believe that gratitude is the secret ingredient to joy—and living a fulfilling life. Dictionary.com defines grateful as, “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” What’s not to love about that? 

Note that I’m not just talking about the “being happy because I just won” kind of gratitude. Rather, some people have a knack or nature of thankfulness from the moment they awaken. They look for the good in people and things. They’re appreciative of their lives and opportunities. They give credit to others before themselves. And no matter how gloomy the times may be, they find a way to be thankful for what is good and maintain perspective. They don’t allow the bad to crowd out the good. Whining and pity parties are not in their vocabulary. 

When I find myself in a slump, it’s usually a sign that I need to increase my gratitude quotient. I remember what I’m thankful for: God, family, friends, country, those who sacrifice to keep us safe, caregivers, teachers and coaches, nature, beauty, art, health, sports, recreation, love, compassion, wonder, and opportunities to use my gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Just to name a few. I’m sure you have others to add to your list, too. 

So, to be joyful, we first need to be grateful.    

The Daily Double

But what happens when you have both? Simply put, it’s magic!

I’d like to introduce you to someone who, despite being only 19 years of age, already has this “2G Factor” down pat. Her name is Rachel Heck. She just accomplished a rare feat of winning the Division I Women’s Golf Championship as a college freshman (from Stanford University). Rachel has accomplished much in her young golfing career, but she is even more impressive as a person if that’s possible. Rachel exudes joy and it clearly stems from gratitude. 

Rachel dedicated her victory in honor of a servicewoman, Victoria Pinckney, who, as a 27-year-old mother, died in Kyrgyzstan while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. Before her round, Rachel wrote Ms. Pinckney’s name on her scorecard to help maintain perspective during this pressure-packed event. Rachel ultimately won the championship by one stroke. 

Our world needs more Rachel Heck’s. In case her name is new to you, here’s a link including her post-round interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcpTKMHpRc. Her grit and gratitude are palpable and immediately apparent. I hope you share this inspiring interview with your students/children to see the power of these two qualities in one person.

So, there you have it. My answer to a fulfilling life! What’s yours?


The LifeSmart Team