I noticed something different with my son this past spring. I stopped getting late work notices from school — something he’s always struggled with. Then, as soon as he got home, he was outside until I called him in for dinner.
He started talking about a garden and became interested in plants and seeds. Whenever we went out, he’d ask if we could stop at the local hardware store so he could get more seeds for his collection. Then he asked if he could build some raised beds in the backyard and a fence to keep the deer out. Honestly, I thought he might lose interest since he had never expressed a huge interest in nature. I was wrong, though. He built five garden beds and a compost pile, plus a massive fence with fallen trees from our woods.
I went out there one evening to get him for dinner because I couldn’t see him. I yelled for him a few times, wondering where he was, and he emerged from the woods with a book on wild-growing herbs and roots he’d gotten from the school library and a notebook. He’d been identifying plants in our backyard. It was then I realized my son had really changed. Gone were the days of staying inside, watching TV, or lying in bed on his phone.
I tried not to make a huge deal of it because I didn’t want to scare his new hobbies away. But I also wanted him to know I was impressed and so glad he was interested in so many different things. Then, his response blew me away.
“I took TikTok off my phone. I was watching it too much, and I realized there are so many other things to do,” he said.
Now, this has nothing to do with my parenting. This was a decision he made on his own. I knew he liked TikTok, but I never felt like it was consuming him or he was spending any more time on it than other teenagers. I never told him he should find something else to do with his time or lectured him about it. I did tell him he had to do homework when he got home and that he could have his phone after that because of his late assignments.
This was all my son’s doing because at fifteen years old, he realized the app was making him feel unhealthy. Now, he reads at night. He says he sleeps better. He gets up earlier; he’s taken on so many hobbies I can’t list them all. He also spends hours a day outside, barefoot, without his phone, grounding. (Grounding is a practice where one connects to the Earth’s natural electric charge and is said to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation, and help with better sleep.)
My son is calmer and happier and says he has no desire to download TikTok again. His grades are better, and his attention span is longer. Of course, he does spend time on his phone. He likes snapping with his friends and still has other apps like Instagram and Facebook, but he says he’s not drawn to those apps like he was with TikTok.
I realize asking a teenager to delete TikTok from their phone is no easy feat — my other children want no part of it — and if they don’t feel like it’s affecting their life to have it, why would they want to get rid of it?
But I have seen a huge difference in my son, so I wanted to share my son’s win in hopes it may inspire someone else who feels like something is weighing them down and keeping them from living their best life. It just may be an app you can’t tear yourself away from.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.