Children using phones
The Tech Savvy Parent Title Typography
Brian Housman author
Teens Longing for Tech Simplicity
I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to check how her studying for finals was going and there was dead silence. Shocked to not hear music blaring or see a laptop glowing, I asked, “What are you doing?” Even more suspicious at the absence of a cell phone in her hand, I further pressed, “Where is your phone?”

She said she was tired of all the noise and needed it quiet to focus for her tests. I swear I even heard her say the words, “I completely turned my phone off and put it on the top shelf so it wouldn’t distract me.” While this might have seemed like an otherworldly event, she was actually making a choice similar to many other teens in her generation—unplugging.

More and more teens are getting tired of always being digitally connected. There has become an oversaturation of tech in their lives, and they are searching for a little simplicity. Consider these telling trends. Three years ago, less than one percent of teens intentionally opted for a flip phone; today that number is three percent. That may not seem like a lot, but that small number equates to several hundred thousand teens who are saying, “I don’t need all that stuff.”

Millennials are typically the first adopters of new technology. The tech industry counts on teenagers gobbling up every new gadget they crank out. The buying desires of teens is a huge influence on what gets made and what features it will have. When the new Apple Watch was released, something weird happened. Less than ten percent of teenagers said that they needed one. This was a shock to everyone who has ever laid eyes on a teenager (or the Apple Watch for that matter). When asked why teens are giving a cold shoulder to this latest wrist candy, the answer was simply, “I don’t need another screen in my life.”

In what may be the tipping point toward tech simplicity… enter the celebrities. As much as I loathe the influence our pop culture saturated world gives to celebrities, in this case it might be a good thing. Many celebrities such as Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck have gone old school with their phones. These influencers shape the decisions of millions of teens. What they are saying is that it’s time to go small and forego the sleek and shiny devices of today.

“Teens and tweens that learn to unplug periodically report a higher level of ‘present moment awareness’ and less anxiety.”
Pop star Ed Sheeran famously took a social media detox several years ago. He decided to give up not only social media but also his cell phone as a New Year’s resolution. He announced on his Instagram account, “I’m taking a break from my phone, emails, and all social media for a while. I’ve had such an amazing ride over the last five years, but I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes, so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed.”

Tech has developed into a double-edged sword for our kids. Their fear of missing out (FOMO) keeps them constantly connected, but the ever-present connectivity actually leads to less authentic social engagement. Teens and tweens that learn to unplug periodically report a higher level of “present moment awareness” and less anxiety.

Don’t expect your teenagers to go cold turkey with tech in their life, but you shouldn’t be surprised to see them leave their phone behind every now and then. You might need to be prepared for the dawning of the tech apocalypse when your teenager walks in, turns off the TV, and wants to have a conversation. In all seriousness, this would be a great conversation starter with your teen or tween. Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling.

Does all the technology in your life ever make you feel stressed?

Do you ever wish you could just “unplug” from everyone?

How do you think teenagers today maintain their own identity when everyone is on social media 24/7?

What is one thing you do to keep yourself from being sucked into all the online drama?

Is there anything I can do to help make your life more simple?

So give your teens a challenge this summer. See if they want to do a fun experiment and simply unplug for a day.

Brian Housman author

rian Housman has had the privilege of speaking at more than two hundred parenting conferences from coast to coast and internationally. He is the author of Tech Savvy Parenting and Engaging Your Teen’s World. Brian and his wife Mona have been married for twenty-one years and have two teenagers, Bailey and Ashlan. Get daily parenting tips from him on Twitter at @bwhousman.