Craving Face to Face

Today's-Teens“My kid spends way too much time staring at her phone!”

It’s the number one complaint I hear from moms and dads at my parent workshops across North America—kids spending too much time glued to technology.

So whose fault is that?

Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd says parents should blame themselves.

“Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other.” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they moved it online.”

Wired Magazine’s Clive Thompson, a friend of Danah’s, supports her claim:

It’s true. As a teenager in the early ’80s I could roam pretty widely with my friends, as long as we were back by dark. But over the next three decades, the media began delivering a metronomic diet of horrifying but rare child-abduction stories, and parents shortened the leash on their kids. Politicians warned of incipient waves of youth wilding and superpredators (neither of which emerged). Municipalities crafted anti-loitering laws and curfews to keep young people from congregating alone. New neighborhoods had fewer public spaces. Crime rates plummeted, but moral panic soared. Meanwhile, increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids’ after-school lives.

I can’t argue with Thompson. I certainly was out of the house and hanging with my friends “face to face” way more than my own teenagers are today.

But this might just be a chicken or the egg argument. Are kids truly home chatting with their friends electronically simply because they are “scared” or “banned” from going outside, or are they not going outside because of the ease of these e-channels?

Which is it?

Regardless, this fact remains. Kids love hanging out with each other. They love relationships and they long to connect… even with adults.

Are you using this opportunity to meet this need and connect with teenagers?


About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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2 Responses to Craving Face to Face

  1. Jared Khu says:

    Yep, fully agree that teenagers love hanging out with each other. But even when they have that opportunity, e.g. at camps, meals together, bus trips where the bus is full of people of all ages, they still pull out their phones and ignore the live people around them and connect with someone on FB or other social media?

    • That’s where adults need to provide helpful guardrails (like no phones at the dinner table) as well as providing activities that lift their eyes (I think of the recent Chevy commercial where the dad takes the kid camping, swimming in a creek, etc.). If we, adults, sit down with kids, ask them questions, LISTEN, and have meaningful face to face conversations, it will help segue them from screen communication to real interpersonal conversation.