Kids and Phones: Why Parents Are Scared and How a Utah Couple Offers Hope

Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes

Concerns about the risks posed to children by smartphones and other tech devices prompted a Utah couple with five children to develop a program to prepare their children to use technology wisely.

Now, Dave and Emily Jones have launched Family Tech University with an online course for other parents who have similar concerns. Designed for ages 12 and up, the Internal Filter Workshop includes a range of modules that address parenting concerns, including the dangers of pornography, texting while driving, online friendliness and smartphone etiquette.

A quick scan of online parenting discussions about kids and technology reveals one dominant emotion: fear.

“My husband and I found out that my daughter was involved in inappropriate texts and photos with a friend… We are mortified and heartbroken…”

“I’m afraid my son might miss REAL contacts because of his phone…”

“My daughter wants a private Tik Tok account to use with her friends. I didn’t allow her to have it… I want to say yes, but I’m SO scared.”

“I feel this panic that if I’m not an expert on every new app and social media platform, my kids are doomed.”

These excerpts are from the Parenting in a Tech World Facebook group, which has nearly 273,000 members.

As the number of members shows, these fears are hardly surprising. Parents are constantly bombarded with chilling information about the negative impact of technology on children’s well-being.

It was this concern that prompted Utah Dave and Emily Jones to found Family Tech University.

“When our oldest son started asking for his own phone, we went online to find out how to prep it and we came back freaking out,” says Emily. “Everyone was screaming, ‘Beware! Protect your children! It’s horrible out there!’ But the approach to fear didn’t suit us. Something was missing.”

Dave says: “I had this colleague who was a great, dedicated father. He had put together a detailed ‘smartphone contract’ for his children to help them commit to living well with phones. He put a lot of work into it and it was full of great stuff, but it didn’t sit well with a son in particular. One day this father came across the contract and discovered that his son had taken a lighter and actually branded his own name on the contract!”

Family Tech University founders Dave and Emily with their children.
Family Tech University founders Dave and Emily with their children. (Photo: Sarah Grace Allred)

“I’ve thought a lot about this great father.” Says David. “Why didn’t that go well? That was a dedicated, caring father.” And then it dawned on me…this son, in his own heart, was not convinced of the principles of this contract. He did not yet possess the wisdom his father offered. This son hadn’t grappled with the idea that using technology wisely is really for his own happiness.”

Emily adds, “That’s when we realized this was the missing piece we were looking for. With all of the online emphasis on protecting our children from the horrors of the online world, we have forgotten that they are living, breathing human beings who need the wisdom in their own minds and hearts. Filters and protection are critical…but they are the training wheels, not the endgame.” And what is the endgame? “A child who walks out the door, away from filters and supervision, and still chooses well: a child with a robust internal filter.”

Wisdom is something we cannot give to our children. The foundation of a strong internal filter is the opinions they possess. It’s not “because mom said so” or “because dad said so”. It will be theirs.

-Emily Jones

This revelation motivated Emily and Dave to develop a course for their children to prepare them to use technology wisely: The Internal Filter Workshop. Aimed at kids 12+, this online course is packed with teen-appealing articles and videos designed to inspire kids to make wise choices about technology for their own happiness. The real secret of the workshop’s success is the fact that children can have all this amazing content in front of them to learn from and form opinions on.

“Wisdom is something we cannot give to our children,” asserts Emily. “The foundation of a strong internal filter is the opinions they possess. These come from a little study, thought, and practice. It’s not ‘because mom said so’ or ‘because dad said so’. It will be theirs.”

Dave adds: “It’s really okay to ask our kids to do a little work before we hand them the fully charged smartphone. Think of this type of training as your “driver education” for a high-performance vehicle. We don’t need to be afraid of that. There is hope for these children. You can really learn to use these powerful technologies for a good and happy life.”

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