A Safe Smart Watch For Kids

We’ve been a happy Gabb Wireless family for a couple of years now. Two of our three sons had/has a Gabb phone. When our middle son was nearly 16, we allowed him to transition to an iPhone. Honestly, I miss the Gabb for him as much as I knew I would.

Andrew lost his phone a few months ago. He has to use his own money for a phone and decided he could live without one. What we found is that we missed knowing where he was, that he arrived somewhere safely, or simply being able to send him quick messages.

So we bought him a Gabb watch. And I am in love with this watch. I’ve never liked smart watches because they were too connected. The Gabb watch is only what they need and nothing more.

The ease of use is perfect for a kid on the move. He can voice record his text to us. The sound and clarity of the voice calls is exceptional. And the best part, it stays on his wrist.

Through the month of October, you can buy any Gabb devices for 30% off. Use promo code RENEEROBINSON.

It would be a great Christmas gift and you can go ahead and beat the rush and check that baby off the list!

How to Silence the Feed to Heal the Soul

 

Irritation, quick-temper, distracted mind, forgetfulness. These are a few signs I needed more than a social media detox. I was in need of soul healing.

I’ve been writing for years about the importance of removing ourselves from the grips of screens in order to reset our minds and souls. I’m six weeks into my current social media fast and continue to experience healing.

I wrote an article over at Bubbling Brook titled

MORE THAN A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX: HOW SILENCING YOUR NEWS FEED CAN HEAL YOUR SOUL

In the article I share how I realized I desperately needed to silence the feed and the signs that my soul was healing when I followed God’s prompting for a break.

I hope you will find practical steps as well as encouragement to step into a time of healing with Jesus.

A truly safe phone for kids – 24 hour deal

Once you open the door to smartphones, it’s hard to close it. Once the door is opened, you begin the process of continually learning no amount of restrictions and monitoring are effective in truly keeping our kids safe.

As I’ve shared before, we’ve tried dumbed down smartphones, flip phones, iPods, and have found none to be truly safe. When I found the Gabb phone, I knew I’d found a parent’s dream to a phone they can put into their kid’s hands with no worries.

For 24 hours only, you can get this phone for $49 using my promo code RENEEROBINSON49

Purchase Gabb phone here

(This link will begin working Monday November 23rd at midnight MT)

These phones are expected to sell out fast. Monday November 23 12:00 am-11:59pm MT.

My 15 year old told us a story recently about someone asking what kind of phone he had. His response made us laugh. “I have a ‘my mom loves me phone’.”

The Gabb phone utilizes phone, text, calculator, calendar, music, gps, and camera. No internet, no apps, no games, no social media. No danger. No worries. Truly a peace of mind phone at a perfect price point. I’m not big on putting a $1,000 phone in my kids’ hands anyway.

There’s a new movement of parents waking up to the effects and harms of smartphones and screens on our children. In an effort to do our part in keeping kids safe and saving their innocence and childhood, the Gabb phone is a step in the right direction.

 

 

 

A safer alternative to a smartphone but with the same look

For years I’ve been writing about screen addiction, digital detoxes, and electronic boundaries to protect our families and our children. The first post was a letter to my boys about why I limited their electronic usage. After watching that post go viral multiple times, I realized this was a topic important to millions of families just like us. I began exploring the topic more and sharing my findings and insights here with you all. You can find many of those posts here.

I’ve never been a fan of a smartphone in the hand of a kid or even a young teen.

When Zachary turned 13 we bought him his first phone. It was a flip phone. I thought that would be the safest option. As it turns out, it’s not much better than a smart phone. On the flip phone you are unable to disable internet access. Yes, the flip phone has internet access. But with little to no parental controls.

We have bought 2 flip phones. Each time we’ve gone to the store we’ve been told there was only 1 option, 1 flip phone. No choices. We have also been told there is no demand and soon we will have no flip phone options.

I disagree with the lack of demand. I talk to too many parents and listen to you all share your heart for wanting a safer option.

Now that Zachary is almost 15, a flip phone isn’t the coolest thing in the world. To text on a flip phone is not super easy. So he’s reached a point where he began asking for a smartphone, but we aren’t ready to open that world to him at this point. He has more than enough internet access via computers and iPads in our home, we really don’t want him carrying access to the world in his pocket. And let’s be honest, we adults struggle to manage the distractions, so expecting our kids and teens to filter through the mess online is a setup for frustration.

I’ve scoured the internet for safe phones for teens. I end up finding nothing. Then one day as I scrolled Facebook an ad popped up. This one instantly spoke to me because it advertised a phone with no internet access, the look of a smartphone, with all the major functions important to us.

The price was perfect, the monthly service was the exact amount I already paid, so I bought it right off the ad. I don’t think I’ve ever bought from a FB ad before!

Ya’ll! I’m in love with this phone.

Company mission:

Put really simply, our mission is to protect children, connect families and encourage life outside the screen.

This video explains the heart behind this company and their mission. Created by a dad who found himself in the same place I did, standing in a phone store realizing the market held nothing to give our kids what they wanted while protecting them the way we want to protect them.

Key features of this phone:

 

Phone, Text, Camera, Calendar, Calculator. Unlimited talk and text for $19.99 and month. And the coverage is excellent!!

No internet, no app store, no social media, no games, no ability to send and receive pictures (which is becoming a major problem with inappropriate images sent and received by kids).

I bought our phone when it was on sale for $69. Currently the Gabb phone is being offered for $49, plus I have a promo code for an additional $5 off. Just use promo code RENEEROBINSON when you check out.

 

*****This post contains affiliate links.*****

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A generation screened to death

(9 minute listen)

When life loses its wonder

When one of my boys was young elementary, I chaperoned a field trip to an aquarium. Everything we encountered was magical and enchanting, yet a little boy in my group continued to complain, “This is soooooo boring.”

Initially, I ignored him. But he wouldn’t stop.

“When are we leaving?”

“This isn’t fun.”

Each comment he made sucked the joy right away from all the other kids. The rest of the group quieted down their own excitement. I saw these other kids question what they thought was cool and exciting.

Negativity is like that. Spreading like the vicious cancer it is.

I asked the little boy, “What do you think is fun?”

“Video games.”

A rock wrapped my heart and pulled it straight to the depths of my stomach.

Of course this kid was unimpressed with life. His brain was being rewired. He was being screened to death.

Video games seem innocent. They are not.

The goal is to addict

Dig in, do some research on how these games are created. The goal of the developers is to addict our kids. This should be common sense to us. It’s a business. If they can’t hook you, they lose money.

Many tech developers send their kids to tech free schools and their kids aren’t living on screens. They only put them into the world for our kids. Not their own. What does that tell us?

It’s only getting worse. Each new fad game released has to up the bar. It has to beat the game losing its grip.

These games do NOT have your child’s best interest in mind. They have a mission to entertain all the way to addiction.

We are screening our kids to death.

We are killing what could be in them and our families. You may think I’m being overly dramatic.

Listen, satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And he comes as an angel of light. And he’s a master deceiver. In other words, we will see and encounter life threatening choices and see them as no big deal.

Parents, we are modeling peer pressure to our kids.

I can’t tell you how many parents have said to me the reason they give in is because all the other parents give in. Lord, have mercy on us.

We are stronger than this, parents. How often do we tell our kids, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.”?

Yet, what do we do when we see all the other parents letting their kids feast on these games? We follow the masses. We let peer pressure decide.

We need to be stronger than we are.

Do you know what I’ve never heard a parent say to me? “I wish smart phones and video games were this popular when I raised my kids.” Never, not once have I heard this.

I am constantly overhearing conversations on this topic. I have to literally bite the sides of my mouth to keep from piping into a side conversation. I listened to a mom and a dad (not married to one another) discussing the problems they were facing with their kids’ attitudes and behaviors they believed linked to video games.

The mom ended by saying, “But the games are really good for them. It teaches social skills because when they go to school they have something to connect over and talk about with each other.”

We’ve bought justifications.

In the history of the world has social skills ever been a mainstream issue? Nope.

You know why? Because we were created in the image of God for community and relationship. This is what we were made for!!!! We don’t need to be taught how to connect with each other. Especially kids. Kids are so natural and innocent as they enter friendships and relationships. They talk about everything and nothing.

Screens are killing our ability to connect socially.

Screens are creating death in so many forms in the life of our kids, and we must wake up before an entire generation is lost.

Kids need to be bored.

Boredom is a friend of childhood. It is not our role to remove boredom and keep our kids entertained, occupied, and busy. Yes, they drive us crazy when they are bored, but so what? If they see we don’t budge, they will figure out their own boredom issues.

Kids can’t solve problems because we are too good at solving the problems for them. Oh, you are bored, here watch You Tube, play the XBox, watch movies.

In this state of constant screening:

  • imagination dies
  • invention never gives birth
  • insight lies in a dark cave never discovered.

A mind screened to death.

[Tweet “In a mind screened to death, imagination, invention and, insight die.”]

Something powerful happens in boredom. We become still and quiet. Inventive and creative. Deep thinking begins.

A mind never bored never has the opportunity to discover deeper insights. And we all suffer for it.

We are exchanging long term joy for short term convenience as parents when we put a screen in the hands of our kids.

It’s not easy to grocery shop with babies and toddlers. But how else do they begin to learn the world doesn’t revolve around them and their needs and their entertainment. So much life to see at the store, but more often than not all I see are glowing faces of kids head down in a cart.

They don’t encounter the smiles of strangers or small talk with the bagger. They don’t have to worry about developing patience in a long line. They can simply bury their head in a screen, entertained as the subconscious thought develops that their needs, their entertainment is of utmost importance.

As these kids are screened to death, they are numbed to real life. We all lose in the long run.

We are setting up patterns of addiction.

Kids are living on dopamine hits they are saying are as powerful as any drug on the market. We can’t live with our head in the sand over this issue any longer. The research is available. The resources to understand what is happening to their brains is astounding. The question is – do we want to know?

We are partly living not wanting to know. When we know, we suddenly are faced with making choices and decisions we’d rather not deal with.

When we know, we can’t un-know.

Say cocaine was legal, yet I know the ramifications it would have, would I allow my child to enjoy it simply because all their friends were? That’s ridiculous. Of course, I wouldn’t.

Screens are legal, but lethal in many ways. Over time, they kill so much of what could have been. They kill moments. They kill memories. They kill relationships. They kill creativity and imagination. They kill passions and desires.

They are killing families. Suicides and teen depression at record highs. When will we pay attention? When it’s our own kid? Then will we care more?

We have a choice.

  • We can choose to create a culture of connection in our home.
  • We can share with our kids the whys behind our choices. When kids understand the why, everything changes. They understand.

It’s never too late to make a change.

It’s easier to set healthy boundaries and patterns when our kids are young, but it’s never too late either.

The last thing I’ll say in this post. I get many letters privately on this topic. I’ve cried over some of them. It’s why I just can’t stop talking about it. One theme I hear repeatedly is that mom and dad aren’t on the same page. I don’t have an answer to this. All I can say is pray. God desires unity.

 

For more posts on this topic, browse through the Electronics category of my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Scrolling through life – Are we living distracted by screens or focused on life?

Living distracted by screens?

I sat behind this family. A pre-teenish aged girl, head down except for brief moments coming up for air, or rather, back into real life. Head back down.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Scroll.

I struggled to disengage following her phone habits. Her distraction from life around us was totally distracting me. The thing is, this is the norm for many teens today. But let’s be fair. The struggle is real for us adults as well.

When she engaged in real life, she complained to her parents about being bored. When she was bored, she picked up her phone.

Scroll.

She bounced from one social media platform to the next.

This isn’t unique to this girl. It’s all of us. It’s me too.

How often do I reach for my phone out of boredom, looking for that next hit of entertainment or distraction?

How often do I reach for my phone for the high of escape?

When I don’t feel like listening to one more complaint or argument, I pick it up.

Scroll.

When I feel awkward waiting for a friend to meet me, I pick it up.

Scroll.

We watched an entire family sitting at a table at a restaurant never looking up until the food arrived. 2 parents, 4 kids – scrolling through life. Missing the life of each other right before their eyes.

What stories went untold? What laughs never broke free? What impact or influence never passed one to another?

Real life vs fake offering

So much life missed trying to stay up on the fake life a screen offers.

We are missing the best and accepting the counterfeit.

This is nothing new.

‘When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”’

Exodus 32:1

They were tired of waiting, so they reached for the counterfeit.

They chose fake over real. They chose immediate gratification over lifelong satisfaction.

The very next verse shocks me.

‘Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’

Exodus 32:2-5

Aaron so quickly went along with the people and not only joined the masses but led them in their rebellious desires.

We do too.

We know we are trading real life, real connection for the false idol. Yet, we follow. We accept what never satisfies.

As we scroll through life, we are indulging our flesh. We indulge our desire to be entertained. We’ve created our modern day golden calf. We worship at the altar of our screens.

We have a choice to make.

These screens we scroll through will never give us what we truly crave. It’s like eating a diet of candy. Over time we will become sick.

I believe at various times God brings us enlightenment and we have a choice in what to do. We can continue down a path or make corrections.

When we find our scroll is invading our life, maybe a break is what is needed.  A fast in order to refocus our attention and reclaim the moments we’ve been missing.

Focused on Life?

There have been moments that happened I’ve looked back on and thought, “If I’d been buried in a screen, I would’ve miss that completely.” At the same time, I know for a fact I’ve missed countless moments as I’ve lived distracted by the scroll of my phone. I’ll never know what I missed. But I have a choice in each moment to claim it or let it pass.

I want to live a life full of beautiful moments. I want to have relationships that can stand the test of time and life. I want to create memories we can talk about around the table in 20 years.

Living an intentional life means looking ahead at what we desire and choosing today the steps we need to take in order to arrive.

It’s looking ahead and deciding what we want our Thanksgiving table in 20 years to look like and realizing it takes action today to achieve that. Meaningful relationships and moments take nurturing.

Intentional living is living life on purpose rather than scrolling through life mindlessly.

What are we nurturing today?

If you’ve followed along here for some time you know I’m passionate about guarding our families from screen intrusions. When I started writing online my goal was to encourage others to live an intentional life. Ironically, this was before screens were at play. It didn’t take long for screens to begin to dominate in homes and I’m determined to keep preaching this message.

The first post I wrote on this subject circulated into millions of homes. I received messages from parents who felt alone in their desire to raise children who could live with heads up and eyes ahead focused on life. They realized they aren’t alone. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here A Letter to My Sons – The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics.

You can can find other posts I’ve written on this topic by clicking here.

And if you aren’t subscribed to receive posts via email, click here. I rarely post more than once a week and promise never to spam you. I count it a privilege to encourage and inspire you to live an intentional life.

 

 

 

 

 

How to control screens in your home so they don’t control your family

When I began writing about limiting screens in our family, I was surprised to discover I wasn’t alone. It seemed many of us felt the encroachment of electronics in our homes and were searching for ways to protect our time and our hearts.

One common comment I heard, and still hear, is along these lines.

I wish my kids played outside more.

I wish my kids liked to read.

I wish I could get my kids off the screen more.

I wish…..

What do you wish for your family regarding screens?

The parents who make these comments genuinely mean what they said. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes. They truly feel at a loss and in need of ideas, help, or direction.

Over the years, I’ve spent much time talking, reading, and listening to families on this topic.

Two things to consider in taking control of the screen issue:

  • It starts with the culture we create in our homes.
  • It starts with starting with the end in mind.

Set the Home Culture

When we moved to Nebraska and visited our church for the first time, we immediately sensed the unique culture. Over the next several weeks, we saw it was a church that had a deeply established culture of servanthood and self-feeders. The congregation didn’t show up to be served and spoon fed the Word. They showed up eager to jump in and serve. And they showed up with their Bibles having spent the week studying the Word on their own and in groups.

It started with the leadership of the church. These were values important to the leaders. They modeled and lived out the culture they wanted to create.

In a similar way, we as parents are leaders in our homes and have the unique opportunity to create a family culture. In order to do this effectively, we can’t be concerned with what “everyone else” is doing. We have to keep our eyes in our own lane. Where do we want to drive our family?

How to limit screen time

In our home we never had the tv on in the background, and we never allowed our kids to simply turn on the tv whenever they felt like it. The same holds true for gaming devices or any screen for that matter.

We have a time and place for screens. We control screens so they don’t control our family.

When our kids were small, we had dedicated tv time. From the beginning screens functioned within boundaries set by us, the parents. As the parent, this is our role to set and monitor these boundaries. We didn’t hand this over to the children because children don’t know what is best for them. Two hours on a device is like 5 minutes to a child.

As our kids grew older, those boundaries remained. They earned more time and greater freedom with age and responsibility, but our family culture remains today the way we created it all those years ago.

Start with the end in mind.

It was highly important to me to have teenagers who wanted to hang around us, who were respectful and kind, and who didn’t live in their own selfish worlds. It’s impossible to one day mold a teenager when they are 13 into what we hope they will be. Instead we begin the day they are born. We spend time with them, we pour love into them, we teach, mold, and develop for years.

With screens, because they can be so invasive in the home, we begin with the end in mind.

If I want a teenager who lives connected to our family more than a device, then I’m careful when he’s a baby or toddler not to put a screen in his hand as a babysitter. What we do in the beginning sets patterns for later.

At the same time, it’s never too late to start again. To create new boundaries and communicate your love and commitment to your family.

If I want a teenager who isn’t completely selfish, I don’t as a baby give him a screen to calm him down or get him to do what I want as we go through our day. I don’t give him a screen so I can do what I want.

It’s hard, it’s sacrificial. It’s a long haul view for sure. But it is so very worth the time and energy it requires of us as parents.

Now when parents tell me the greatest struggle is getting their kids off the screens, I ask them if they allow screens to be turned on without parent permission. I know that if from the beginning we had allowed our kids to turn on the tv or play a gaming device whenever they felt like it, that is all they would want to do to this day. They would have never chosen to play outside or read a book. But screens weren’t an option to turn on whenever they felt like it.

We grow what we feed our appetites.

If our kids feed on screens, their appetites for screens grows. Same for us as adults.

Screens must live within the family’s boundaries. If not, screens will attempt a takeover of the family, and before long, it will feel like screens are in charge.

There is hope. There really is!

Over the years I’ve received my fair share of ugly emails from people telling me how my kids will end up hating me one day. How they will feel excluded and left out. I believe this is a fear many parents have. Often we cave to our fears and begin to allow screens to rule.

When kids understand the why and the heart behind the why, they get it.

From the beginning we discussed the issues and dangers of allowing screens to dominate our lives. We discussed the heart issues. Most importantly, we focused on building the relationship. As Josh McDowell wisely says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Build the relationship.

Our kids understand we are for them not against them. As a family, we are on the same team. We are Team Robinson.

The issue runs deeper than many parents have yet to consider. It’s deeply spiritual. When we place screens within protective boundaries, we are training our kids to master the cravings of the flesh rather than live slave to their flesh.

One argument is to give the kids all the screen time they want so they can learn to handle it.

Well, they can’t. Instead they will often find themselves bound to it.

We don’t place before a toddler a bounty of vegetables and candy and say, “They need to know how to handle this on their own.” No, we know what they would choose.

Over time, they would lose all taste for vegetables and find themselves highly sugar addicted. And we all know the spiral of the sugar crash in a child.

Screens are addictive. When our children are in their growing and forming years, it’s our job to protect their hearts and their minds. To teach them what is best for them.

My middle son leans more toward being a spender over a saver. When he was much younger, if he had $5 for 5 minutes that was a miracle. Money in his hand didn’t remain long. He was very impulsive too. We’d go into a store, and if he had money, he’d suddenly find something he thought he had to have.

For awhile I let him try to control his own spending. I told myself it was his money and the best way to learn is the hard way. But I began to see something quite sad take shape. He couldn’t control himself. No matter how many hard lessons, he didn’t seem to learn. In fact, the struggle only became more difficult for him.

He would feel guilt and shame over his choices. He’d be filled with sadness and regret. He saw all the lessons, but he felt powerless in the moment of decision to make the right choice.

Parents, this is so often what happens to our kids when we let them control their screen time. What takes form in their hearts is damaging over time.

So Zachary and I worked together on his spending. We discussed the heart issues. We discussed how this is a small issue now but at 20, it would be a bigger issue. He trusted me and knew I wanted to help him.

So when we went to stores, even though it was “his money”, I no longer allowed him to spend the money impulsively. If we hadn’t planned for it, we didn’t purchase it. He would leave without spending the money and spend a week thinking about it.

You know what happened? When the chemical rush wore off, he never went back to the store for those purchases.

We’ve spent years doing this with him now. He is gaining greater control by allowing us to help him by placing boundaries around his spending.

This applies to screens with our kids. They often simply can’t see what is best for them. They may not know they need us to place those boundaries, but they do.

They will never choose today based on what’s best for them in 20 years. They can’t possibly because they don’t have an adult brain yet.

This is our role as parents. It is loving and kind to place screens within our limits. When kids understand the why behind what we do, they may not love it initially, but they respect it. And over time, you may be surprised when they thank you for placing those limits around them.

I have written for the last 5 years on this topic. It’s a passion of mine because I want to see deeply connected families thriving. If you want to read more, simply choose Categories, Electronics from the Blog page or click here.

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