My 11 year old has a cell phone that works at home on wi-fi. (Perhaps, I should say HAD!) He used it to text with friends from school and play the occasional game. I put strict time limits on it and installed spyware to follow his conversations and stay on top of what we was doing. Every week he was bypassing my efforts to monitor his screen time. Either he was able to download new apps without me knowing it or figuring out the passcode and changing his allotted screen time. We would take the phone away as a consequence and establish a new set of rules, but he would find himself being too tempted by conversations at school and choosing the wrong path. He would eventually cave and end up downloading TikTok or something he wasn't supposed to. He has a hard time making the right decision and resisting temptation when it comes to screen time. It is exhausting.
It all came to a head one night after I went to bed super early a week ago. Brayden got his hands on his phone when he was not supposed to. It was the day school ended and all his friends were having sleepovers at other people's houses. There was a lot of activity on the group chats late night. Brayden snuck downstairs, figured out the passcode and played on his phone until 11:30pm. He texted with friends and scrolled mindlessly through TikTok for 3 hours straight. When I checked his screen time the next morning, which I often do, I was appalled to see all the activity the night before.
I confronted him about it and he admitted to his indiscretions. He was ashamed by what he did, but he said he couldn't help himself. He admitted that he binged on TikTok and knew it was wrong. He couldn't stop though. My husband and I realized, he was addicted to his phone. I told him it was time to take the device away. Indefinitely. He looked up at me with his tiny face and big blue eyes and said, "I think you're right, mom." There was no fighting me on this one. He finally understand that he was powerless over this device. He couldn't control himself.
This iPhone was doing things to his brain that he didn't like. He was lying, sneaking around and becoming a shell of a person. He was moody, distracted and his mind was elsewhere - constantly consumed by conversations happening in the group chats or by trends on TikTok.
Since taking the phone away, he is back to his old self. In a sense, my 11 year old has gone through a detox. He has become happier, kinder, sillier and more full of life. He is even able to see the stark difference in the way he feels not having to answer to the phone or see what's new on TikTok. He came to me yesterday and said, "It actually feels really good not to have to deal with the phone anymore." He had made it through the other side. He had found his freedom.
I told him that he was a pleasure to be around these days now that he was not longer addicted to his device. I acknowledged to him what a positive change we are seeing and that we have not witnessed such all-star behavior from him in months. He has really made some kind, thoughtful choices these last several days. He has been helpful to both me and my husband as well as less combative with his siblings. We all recognized that it was because we aren't dealing with the phone addiction anymore. I mentioned that this was often how it was for me and alcohol. I felt like a different person when I drank, and a lot of times I felt like I had no control over my brain. I thought about it all the time. While my son didn't really see the connection, I know that the foundation has now been laid for a later conversation.