10 Ways Cell Phones Are Making My Kid’s Childhood So Much Different Than Mine (And, It’s Sad…)

Cell phones, social media and the Internet has its charms, but it also has its harms

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 10 Ways Cell Phones Are Making My Kid’s Childhood So Much Different Than Mine 

Let me start by saying, I’m a huge proponent of technology, advancement, and the upside of having on-the-spot news and connection with the world. But as a mom who’s raising three kids, I’ve also seen, firsthand, the downside for our kids. 

Our kids have grown up with technology, cell phones, and social media. It’s woven into the fabric of their lives. And in many ways, the benefits of them are truly profound.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Kids learn about themselves online. Social media provides a lot of opportunities for young people to connect, discover new information, learn about current events, engage with issues, and have their voices heard. And it gives them an opportunity to explore their identities, which is an important part of the teen years.” 

Still, I think we can all agree that cell phones and social media have their share of charms AND harms.

10 Ways Cell Phones Are Making My Kid’s Childhood So Much Different Than Mine (And, It’s Sad…)


Some of what you’re about to read is backed by research. Some points are noted by experts from various fields and specialties. And, some are simply observations I’ve made working with families, talking with (hundreds) of teenagers, and raising my own kids.

All are challenges and/or circumstances teens face today…


1. Teens Today Aren’t Eager to Get Their Driver’s License 

When I was a teen I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. The second I got it I was asking my parents for the keys to the car so I could cruise around town going from friend’s to friend’s house guzzling up all the gas. 

Today’s teens don’t have the same desire to hit the road as we did. While experts are citing several reasons why teens are opting to hold off on getting their license (including fear and anxiety, the cost of gas, and environmental reasons), one of the key reasons also has a direct connection to cell phones and internet usage. According to the University of Michigan,  “Kids just aren’t getting away from their screens enough to hang out with their friends. Virtual contact, through electronic means, is reducing the need for actual contact.” 

They don’t have to venture out in their car looking for something to do on a Friday night – they can play video games with friends or get on a group chat without ever leaving the house. They don’t have to drive to a friend’s house – they can FaceTime and get (nearly) the same experience as being there. 

2. They’re Not Forced to “Find Fun” Anymore

When I was a teenager, my friends and I would call each other (you know… on a phone that was attached to the wall by a long, annoying cord) and we would plan to meet up somewhere at a certain time. 

Teens today still, of course, find ways to have fun but it’s different. With so many games, movies, apps, and videos to keep them entertained, they’re not biting at the bit to get out of the house like we did.

And, with (some) parents tracking their kid’s every move, kids today know they don’t have the freedom to get into mischief. (Albeit, A LOT of things that went on when I was a kid probably shouldn’t have. And, as a parent who finds peace in knowing my kids are safe, I understand the desire to keep tabs on your kids from time to time.)

3. They Don’t Have the Ability to Get Bored

When my friends and I were bored, we had no choice but to get creative. We rode our bikes to the local 7-Eleven to buy the biggest Slurpee we could afford, ventured to the mall and ate sliced pizza ’til we felt sick, made up games in the backyard, and got into mischief (ahem… trouble) because… well, we could.

Sure, kids today do some pretty cool stuff, too, but nothing like we did growing up. They’re far more content hanging out in their bedrooms, scrolling through social media, checking out what everyone else is doing, and streaming Netflix movies on their phones.

Bored? There’s no reason to get bored when you have access to the whole world in the palm of your hand.

4. They’re Perpetually Stimulated

Not only are kids today rarely bored, they’re almost always stimulated. Their brains are taking in a boatload of information via TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and other apps. It’s been noted that our kids’ biggest challenge is fighting the ever-constant pull of distraction.

In a recent Pew Research Center study, nearly 90% of 2,462 teachers said that digital technologies were creating “an easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” And, it’s easy to see why… they never give their brains time to just be

5. They Lack Social & Communication Skills

Although it may not be a universal problem, a lot of teens today lack key social (including important non-verbal social cues) and communication skills mainly because (through no fault of their own) they’ve spent the better part of their lives interacting with people online. They’re also learning to “adult” at a much slower rate than previous generations.

What teens don’t realize is all that online interaction is robbing them of the opportunity to interact personally with others and that means they’re not honing in on their communication skills.

Plus, the research is pretty clear that technoference (using technology to withdraw from interaction) is associated with lower relationship quality. And, less interaction with friends means more loneliness according to studies

6. The Worry That “Fails” or Vulnerable Moments Will Be Captured and Shared on Social Media is Real

I know I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be a teenager in today’s world.

One slip in the cafeteria or one epic mess-up on the field and you risk it being videotaped and shared (and possibly going viral) on social media. It’s enough to make any teenager apprehensive and anxious. 

Add in the fact that social media opens the door to cyberbullying and it’s enough to make any teen retreat and uber-conscious about everything they say and do.  

7. Too Much Cell Phone/Internet Use Can Take Its Toll

If you’ve ever been worried that your teen is spending far too much time online scrolling, gaming, or searching the web, you’re not alone. It turns out that teens spend an average of 8.5 hours on screens per day, and tweens aren’t far behind, at 5.5 hours daily.

All that time online has a way of taking its toll on kids including, loss of sleep, mental and physical health issues, delays in learning and social skills, and possible negative impact on academic performance (just to name a few). But it can also trigger a form of addiction. And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the dangers that lurk behind our teen’s screens.

According to HealthyChildren.org, “Kids who spend too much time using online media can be at risk for a type of addictive behavior called problematic internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. These kids spend most of their free time online and show less interest in offline or real-life relationships.” 

8. It Triggers A Downslide in Self-Esteem (Especially Among Young Teen Girls)

Walk past a group of pre-teen or teen girls and chances are you’ll see (at least) a few of them taking selfies and posting pictures of themselves on their phones. “Look at me, world! I’m having fun with my besties!”

Sure, it’s fun but for a lot of teen girls, it’s more than a harmless pastime, it’s a habit. 

The constant posting, comparing, one-upping, and trying to prove to the world that they’re cute and fashionable and popular and having fun can crush a girl’s (or guy’s) self-esteem

9. As Connected as They Are, Many Kids Still Feel Lonely

When we were our kid’s age, if we didn’t ring someone’s doorbell, call them “live” on the phone, or hop on our bikes, we ended up sitting in our house doing nothing… so, you bet we got moving.

Of course, there were times we were lonely. But today’s kids are growing up in a world where texting, Snapchat, TikTok comments, and email are replacing human, one-on-one contact. And, they can now get a blow-by-blow via social media of all their friends and acquaintances having fun, which can heighten their loneliness and feelings of isolation.

A Cedars Sanai article cited, “Dependence on technology can also contribute to loneliness among teens and young adults,” which means the more time our kids spend online, the lonelier they can potentially feel.

10. Never-Ending Interruptions and Distractions

We can’t legitimately say we didn’t have distractions growing up… after all, we’d crank up the music and pop our headphones on which made it pretty hard to study or focus. But the distractions our kids face are FAR worse than what we dealt with. Our kids are being bombarded with constant distractions. 

One study found that “Texting or using social media triggers the brain’s reward system. Once the teenage brain has linked a behavior to that reward, it continues to seek the reward again and again. That’s why teens are likely to opt for the reward of social media when they should be studying. Or why they can’t resist the urge to respond to texts while driving.”

Technology, cell phones, social media, and apps galore are here to stay. There’s no way to prevent our kids from being drawn into the allure of all that it has to offer them. (And, it has plenty of good things to offer!)

But what we can do is limit the exposure our kids have to social media and the internet, closely monitor their usage, block certain apps and websites to keep them safe, and adopt the mindset that their cell phone is a privilege NOT a right. Remember, parents, it’s YOUR cell phone. You’re paying for it which means you have full control over it. 

Moreover, we can encourage (or, if we have to, demand) that our kids have balance in their lives. Of course, it’s okay to spend time Facetiming friends, scrolling through social media, and streaming a movie on Netflix. But they also need to have other activities in their lives that fulfill them – family time, sports, clubs, hobbies, friends, a social life, and plenty of fun and adventure. 

It’s a battle our generation of parents has to fight right alongside our kids, (which means we have to be good cell phone role models), but with family rules, open communication, agreed-upon expectations, and boundaries in place, we can allow our kids to enjoy all the amazing benefits their cell phones, apps, and social media have to offer while having a healthy balance in their lives. 

If you enjoyed reading, “10 Ways Cell Phones Are Making My Kid’s Childhood So Much Different Than Mine (And, It’s Sad…)” here are a few other posts you might like:

Is Your Teen Addicted to Their Phone? Strategies to Help Them Break Free

Is Your Teen a Night Owl? Why it’s Wreaking Havoc in their Life and How to Help Them Get More Zzzzs

Crazy Connected – 50% of Teens Feel They’re Addicted to Their Phones

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