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Why Smartphones Make Horrible Christmas Gifts

Why Smartphones Make Horrible Christmas Gifts

Why Smartphones Make Horrible Christmas Gifts

Considering gifting your child a smartphone for Christmas? Think again. 

By Melanie Hempe, BSN, Founder of ScreenStrong


Every parent desires to give their children the perfect gift at Christmas. We long to see the look on our children’s faces when they open what they have been begging for all year. Secretly, we want them to like our gift most of all. This is the reason it is so difficult to say no to the smartphone as a Christmas gift. You are caught in a dilemma. You know your child is not ready for a smartphone, that a phone is a tool not a toy, and that it will change the dynamics of your home and your relationships with your child. But you also know that they will be very upset if they don’t get one. Chances are, it may be the only thing on their list, or at least the biggest thing.  

Don’t fear. We have a solution!

How do you solve this problem? Here are three tips to get you on the right track:

Never give a phone as a gift to your child or teen.

Other than the obvious problems with addictive screens, when you gift a smartphone to your child, you are undermining your right to manage it, control it or even take it away if necessary. You are handing over your leadership and your ability to influence your child to a screen. 

By gifting a smartphone, you are also sending the message that the phone belongs to your child and they may mistakenly think that they have full control over what happens on that phone. It makes perfect sense. You feel the same way when you receive a gift. You expect a transfer of ownership and so does your child.

Rethink the idea of personal phones and get a new house phone.

This is the perfect solution. Instead of personal phones in the pocket of each child, consider getting a basic cell phone to be used in place of the house phone. This home phone is not your child’s personal phone—it is a tool that your teen can borrow if they need it for a sports, rehearsals, babysitting, texting a friend to set up a social date, etc. They simply return it to the designated location in your home when they are done. Isn’t that all they need? We recommend this talk/text only phone so that you never have to worry about setting up internet, gaming or social media limits. Afterall, science tells us that no child or teen needs access to a phone 24/7. You have more than one child? Get more than one house phone if they can’t share it. The point is that it is not theirs, it is yours and our recommended phone is under $100, making it more affordable as well.

Give gifts that reflect your values.

Gifts should never set our children up for failure. It sends a very confusing message when we give them things that are addictive, things that open the door wide for temptations beyond their control, things that make them lie to you, or things that are dangerous. In addition, when you give a smartphone on Christmas day, you will immediately lose your child; they will resist joining in family togetherness because they will be glued to their screen. You will have your first smartphone argument. Not exactly the Christmas memory you were hoping for.

But, all she/he wants is a smartphone—my kid isn’t asking for anything else!

If a smartphone is the only gift your child wants for Christmas, it’s a sign that you have bigger issues at hand. A balanced child has various hobbies and interests and gift giving should be easy. Trust all the other parents who learned the hard way that giving smartphones to kids and teens was the biggest parenting mistake they ever made. In fact, many parents say that giving that phone for a gift marked the beginning of a new phase of conflict with their child that they wish they could go back in time and change.

Don’t make the same mistake this Christmas. 

Are you in a panic now not knowing what to put under the tree? 

ScreenStrong has your back! 

We’ve put together “The Non-Tech Gift Guide: 12 Ways to Rethink Gift Giving, Reclaim Your Kids & Reconnect Your Family.” This updated 43-page ebook is packed with over 200 gift ideas that will empower your children, grow their brains, teach them responsibility and shape their character—none of which can be found on a smartphone.

For a limited time receive your FREE gift guide by simply subscribing to our mailing list

And if you’re ready to become a ScreenStrong family in this digitally-saturated world, then get a copy of our book “The ScreenStrong Solution: How to Free Your Child From Addictive Screen Habits.”

As wise parents, we have to step back and view the big picture when it comes to phones and kids. We need to think like a coach and do what is best for our team—especially when it means that we need to go against the current culture. As much as technology has a place in our lives, I can guarantee that you care much more about the health and happiness of your child than the phone company who is handing out free phones for them this Christmas. End 2019 on a high note and start 2020 with clarity as you make great screen choices for your family. Resist the urge to give a gift that will bring conflict into your home and discover the joy of real giving this holiday season!



Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder and executive director of ScreenStrong, a national nonprofit organization that offers a countercultural approach to eliminate childhood screen dependency, but one that just might save your kids. Melanie has developed cutting-edge programs that empower parents to pause video games and social media for kids and teens through late adolescence. Her three books can be found on Amazon: Will Your Gamer Survive College?, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? and The ScreenStrong Solution: How to free your child from addictive screen habits. 

ScreenStrong is committed to rescuing this screen-driven generation, one family at a time. 

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