Parenting Guide: Redefining Parental Responsibility in the Digital Age

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 2, 2024


Take a slow look around you. Phones are everywhere. Entire rooms of people—at school, at home, at work—are glued to their screens and oblivious to each other. Odds are, you have a phone in your hand right now.

One teenager writes, “Kids in the hallways bump into each other because everybody is staring down at their phones.

"Teachers are giving up on the school’s no-phone policy because students quickly hide their devices and pull them out as soon as no one’s looking.

"At lunch, everybody eats alone, scrolling TikTok while they chew.”

And this kid is describing the vast majority of his age group, as proven by uncounted studies.

Is Phone Addiction Real?

Addiction is defined as the use of any substance or behavior (1) that is harmful to one’s personal happiness or ability to socialize with others and (2) which the user cannot easily quit.

So, most of our children are phone addicts

And where do our kids get their phones? From US, the parents. We are their dealers.

Phone Addiction and Anxiety

Research now shows phone use associated with rapidly rising rates of teenage anxiety and depression. One recent worldwide study says this: “The younger kids are when they get their first phone, the worse their mental health will be.”

Phone Addiction and Relationships

Listen to the words of a 13-year-old boy whose family has given him a rich, nurturing life WITHOUT a phone. He says that every time one of his classmates gets a phone, he thinks to himself, “There goes another one. I’ve lost another friend. Whenever I’m with them, they’re zoned out on their phone.”

What Causes Phone Addiction

But despite all I’ve said about phones, they’re still not the real problem.

We’re failing to see that what every child wants is a feeling of CONNECTION with other people. It’s as important as food or air, but if they can’t get that connection from you, they WILL find it somewhere else.

They settle for “connection” on their phone—to every “friend,” acquaintance, corporation, predator, bully, celebrity, salesman, and crazy influencer who can access the Internet. 

But these connections are dangerous imitations of what children really need—and they’re insanely available. Most of us don’t know how to give them the life-giving connection provided by unconditional love at home, so instead we hand them a phone, happy to be free of any emotional responsibility for them.

Phone Addiction: How to Stop

Take the first step right now. Say out loud these words: “My child is addicted to the phone I gave him or her, and it’s hurting them more than I knew.” Then resolve that you’ll do something about it and save their lives.

Is there a solution to this addiction? Oh YES, there IS.

First, children do NOT need a phone. They DO sometimes need Internet connection—notably for school assignments—but they can do that from a home computer or school computer, where their screens can be seen at all times and their Internet history examined.

They can get a Gabb phone—or its equivalent—where they can text, phone, and be geo-located but without Internet access.

How to Prevent Phone Addiction

I recommend children not get a phone until they’re eighteen. Not kidding. Legally, they can’t smoke in most states until they’re twenty-one, because we recognize the health hazards. Why can we not recognize the emotional hazards of phones—every bit as dangerous as smoking?

While they’re young, while their young brains are setting down pathways for a lifetime, while they’re learning who they are and how the world works, they need every moment possible to be devoted to learning how to feel unconditionally loved, how to love others, and how to be responsible.

We can’t remove all the distractions of the world—we can’t control everything—but we CAN do something about the distractions of a phone.

Eliminating phones is just a beginning. It allows parents to begin nurturing their children with the ONE thing they need more than anything else: unconditional love. Without that love, only removing phones is like tearing the tops off weeds: they’ll grow back and will kill the plants we desire.

Where can we find this unconditional love—or Real Love®—that our children need as much as they need air and water? Go to www.RealLoveParents.com and learn how you can find Real Love® for yourself and share this gift of life with your children.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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