What I've Realized During Our Phone-Free Summer

by Melissa Gibson
Originally Published: 
A three-part collage of a hand holding a white iPhone with a blue background
Scary Mommy and Oziel Gómez/Pexel

According to a recent survey by Common Sense, the amount of teens with smartphones is pushing 90%. 70% of those teens are using social media multiple times a day. And we all know what social media does to our mental health and time management, don’t we? Sometimes I even have time management troubles due to distractions on social media platforms, and I’m 44. Can you imagine what it’s doing to our teens?

For example, the study done by Common Sense Media shows the following:

Over 50% of teens say that social media distracts them from homework and keeps them from actively being involved with friends and family.

The percentage of teens who say social media makes them feel less popular? 70%.

Does social media make them feel better about themselves? 82% say no. EIGHTY TWO PERCENT.

84% of teens polled said that smartphones and social media make them feel MORE depressed.

Read that last line one more time.


As we all have surely noticed, you rarely see a teen without their face in their device. Even when asked a question, they respond without looking up. Families allow devices at the dinner table or out at restaurants. Teens are even “watching movies” in the theater while looking at their phones at the same time. Teachers are even having to take phones from kids before class starts to make sure they are staying focused.

Parents have had to adapt and develop rules that our parents never even had to consider. As a mom to two teens, a tween and a toddler, we’ve enforced our own family rules just the same as many other parents in today’s device-addicted world.

The guidelines we enforce in our home are that phones aren’t allowed in bedrooms overnight, during meals or during homework times. Our girls also need permission to download apps and have time restrictions set on their devices. That sounds all well and good and seems like we have a handle on it all, doesn’t it?

Well, we don’t. They debate with us on the fairness of our rules and still try to spend too much time creating Spotify playlists. My husband and I still see how social media and the feeling that each text needs an answer right away is affecting our girls. Yes, even though we have, and do our very best to enforce, device regulations. We aren’t perfect parents. We’re just trying to enforce guidelines just like the rest of you.

So, when one teen “thought” her phone was waterproof and therefore ended up with a dead phone (we are making her work off the money it takes for a replacement, but that’s a different post for a different day) and the other teen had her device privileges revoked for a bit because of not following house rules, we decided to make this summer The Summer of No Devices.

Well, then how am I writing this post? Because I didn’t dunk my phone in the pool or break house rules. Plus I’m 44, as I mentioned.

We are well into week five of no devices and here’s how that’s going so far:


After the first week, we noticed a huge change in our girls. But listen, you need to know (and this isn’t meant to sound sassy) that our girls are nice girls. They are polite, kind, look at those speaking to them, have good table manners and are sweet, sweet kids. However, they are teens and they do make poor choices just as all teens do. After almost five weeks of no phones, we’ve witnessed these changes:

They are more confident. My girls aren’t wearing what other girls are wearing simply because it’s “cool” anymore. They aren’t influenced by what they see on social media. They’ve rediscovered their own self confidence and are making amazing choices because of it.

Their love for certain things has returned. Why? Because now they have time for them. Meaning, they aren’t distracted by a device, have become “bored” and said to themselves, ‘”Oh, that’s right! I love to paint!” and “I’ve been wanting to read this book!”

They are themselves again. My girls have discovered that they don’t actually even LIKE this or that which their friends are into. They’ve reconnected with their own likes and dislikes and no one is commenting on a post or photo to say, “That’s not cool.” I can now see the girls I once knew three years ago before devices gobbled them right up.

They enjoy each other again. They sit together again. And by “together,” I don’t mean next to each other while looking up funny memes and searching the “explore” section of Instagram. My teens are actively listening and talking to each other again. Cracking jokes and becoming even better friends.

Jessica Wilson/Unsplash

They are happier. My girls are 100% happier since The Summer of No Devices began. Actually, no, that’s not true. They were pretty irritable for the first few days. Their personalities are most certainly more jovial at this point and they don’t have that fear of missing out mentality.

Since we started this, I’ve had parents come to me and say they don’t know how we did it so I’m going to tell you exactly how to have a Summer of No Devices for your own family.


And then when they ask for it?


But what about the times when your child has to get in touch with you. What happens? They borrow a friend’s phone.

If you want to know what kind of teen you really have? How polite and funny your child really is? What kind of amazing personality you’re living with? Just take away the phone. It doesn’t have to be for an entire summer, but give it at least two weeks. I promise you that your family can do it. We spent a week and a half in Costa Rica and our kids didn’t have devices. We stayed in different rooms in the hotels; they didn’t have phones, and it worked out just fine. If I needed to speak to one? I called their hotel room or texted the friend.


Will my girls get their devices back? Of course they will. However, there will be some changes made once they do. We haven’t decided what the new guidelines will be, but I would love for us to say goodbye to Instagram, snapchat and VSCO forever. Will it happen? I’m not certain. I am certain of one thing, though and that’s the idea that I hope The Summer of No Devices moves extra slowly because this is pretty darn nice.

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