Smart Phones: Friend, Foe, Freedom

Kids and phones are and have seen the best of times (I mean, really – sitting in a germ-infested doctors office is MUCH less stressful with a kid’s hands occupied rather than free to the room) to the worst of times. We could probably fill the page with the latter.

  • social media pressures
  • seemingly unavoidable access to damaging apps
  • argument inducer that accompany almost every limitation setting
  • even addiction

There’s also a new term, “nomophobia” meaning NO MOre PHone phOBIA – as in debilitating fear when the phone is gone. Seems a stretch, but who can make this stuff up.


Of course none of that is limited to kids. But it’s always easier to see others’ issues before our own. Or maybe it’s the major warning signals flashing brightly, letting us know that something is off, something is stealing from us, something threatens harm that has smart-phones in the headlines and at the top of social media feeds weekly, if not daily.

But there are Apps (may the irony not be lost) for that – dealing with cell phone addictions as well as legitimate forced limitation for families. I had a friend over yesterday who recently put OURPACT on her phone to help manage screen time and stop naggy push-back with her teenage boys. The app a free but has a fee for increased ability to customize. She’s not trying to over-insert herself into their lives, but is trying to help them find balance and adhere to boundaries – so they can finish their work or actually participate in life – as in live conversation.

Because, honestly we sometimes/often need help. I wish there was an App to stop me from finishing off that last piece of pie. Or an app to stop me from saying that one little extra piece of info that just didn’t need saying.

My kids still won’t let me live down a moment when we were all in the car passing through a security gate. The guard asked for our name, then searched and searched through his long list. We’re accustomed to waiting since our last name is Wyma. So I lightly joked with the kind gentleman about our being last. Even went to far with telling him that my maiden name is Wills and that I went BACK in the alphabet. Then went further by saying I dreamed of being a “B” or an “M” as a child. He didn’t need to know that and certainly didn’t care. But I totally blew it when – after he had smiled, raised the gate & waived us on – I stopped the car while driving off and yelled back. “We carry up the rear.” Why do I do that? It’s horrifying. I’m sure he heard the moans and groans of our entire car, “Mahhwwmmm!! That’s so awkward! Just stop talking.”

Yeah, where’s the app for that?!

I was just talking with someone yesterday who thought parents should agree to ban phones until kids are in 8th grade. I’m not sure that could even happen; but she had a point. The conversation stuck in my thoughts. Then as if on cue, I heard this piece (A School’s Way to Fight Phones in Class: Lock Them Up) on the radio while racing from one place to another. It’s about a product called Yondr – a little pouch that literally creates phone-free spaces.

Graham Dugoni founded the company Yondr four years ago, after he was annoyed by people using their phones at concerts. Turns out performers were, too, and now, hundreds of them, like Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Ariana Grande have been forcing fans to lock up their phones. Or, as Dugoni would put it, freeing fans to really enjoy their shows.

It really is forced freedom – which seems crazy, but it works and is now being tapped by schools to create classrooms for learning and communication and contemplation – free from phone distraction, kids able to engage.

At the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take students’ phones, slip them into a soft pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores. Students take their pouched phones back, but can only unlock them with a special device at dismissal time, nearly eight hours later.

Of course kids are outraged and have tried just about everything to open the pouches and retrieve their phones. But the positive upswing has been undeniable. There are even some students who admit it. One said that with her phone gone during the day, she forgets about it completely, finding herself less attached to it even at home.

Senior Yalena Terrero Martinez went on to tell the reporter, “I don’t reach for my phone as much,” Martinez says. “Because if you don’t feed into the habit, the habit eventually slows down.”

Martinez says the pouches are also making a big difference socially.

“Oh my gosh, all my friends would be like on their phones during lunch, and I was just sitting there staring out the window, waiting for a conversation to spark up,” she says. “But now, like, we talk a lot more.”

That’s exactly what the folks who make the pouches were hoping for.

Interesting stuff. Would love to know your thoughts.

As always, thanks for walking the road with me!


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