Ahhh… Smartphones. We use them for games, social networking, email, texting, and every once in a while we use them to make a phone call. They are a necessity amongst adults, teenagers, and even elementary school children in today’s world.  However, there are studies out there saying that smartphone use is doing more harm than good, especially in adolescents and children.

There are red flags being raised everywhere about smartphone use amongst children and young adults. However, every time I call a parent out for their child having a smartphone, they tend to get defensive or blow up on me.

The common responses out there are:

“Yeah… I caved and I wish I didn’t. Little Johnny has been really good lately and wanted one.”

“You don’t realize how hard it is to pick them up from soccer practice when the field is 300 yards away from the street!”

“It’s the only way my son/daughter can orchestrate rides to and from practice or school!”

“I need to know where they are at all times! Do you realize the dangers out there today?”

Now, I understand that parents can get fired up over this. It’s more convenient for YOU to text or call your child so that they are where you want them to be. It’s an absolute miracle that our parents were able to keep us out of trouble without smartphones back in the day. I mean, dialing on a rotary phone that was attached to the wall – how did they manage parenting without a cellular device?

All sarcasm aside, smartphone use in teenagers is alarming with more than 50% of teenagers admitting they are addicted to their phone. I’ve even heard of parents using popular ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to transport their children instead of picking them up because they’re “too busy”.  All of these decisions that are made for convenience are starting to take their toll on children. And, its not getting better.

Related: Six Character Flaws That College Coaches Can’t Stand

However, I understand how “passionate” parents can be these days when they want to defend their decisions, so I will digress. Instead, let’s let the statistics do the talking and show you how much time your child is wasting every day with their smartphone use.

Smartphones are a huge distraction and teach terrible time management skills in young athletes.

One of the great things about being an Economics major in college is that you learn about valuable economic principles such as opportunity cost. It’s always been interesting to me because it dives into human psychology and the decisions that we make on a daily basis to satisfy our needs.  Subconsciously, we know that we are making decisions throughout the day that neglect much more important tasks that need to be accomplish, but we continue to move forward with what we decide.  It’s the marvel of human psychology.

The opportunity cost is enormous and it’s hindering their ability to become a better athlete, whether you agree or not. I understand that with social media, texting, video calling and games that it’s difficult to not become distracted by your smartphone. In fact, some are linking smartphones to having the same effect on the brain as drugs. However, take a step back and think about it for one second: If it’s hard for you as an adult to put down your smartphone or tablet, think how hard it must be for your child to put it down.

Smartphone use is continuing to rise in young athletes, and its linked to depression.

After doing some research, I found out that in 2016 the average American spent more than five hours per day on their smartphone. And, scholars are linking depression and isolation to an increase in smartphone use amongst teenagers. The overall state of mental health in teenagers is at risk too from their smartphone use. However, if you were too look at daily smartphone use from an athletic standpoint, that’s three hours per day of just wasting time.  Don’t tell me that your child is working on investing in their future on their phone either – that argument doesn’t fly.  These wasted hours add up over time to more than 1,800 hours per year, which will play a huge reason why your child’s smartphone use will never allow them to be a collegiate athlete.

Why Your Child’s Smartphone Use Is Hindering Their Personal Development

If you’re familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, which was outlined in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, you will realize that your child’s smartphone use will throw away their opportunity to be a collegiate athlete over the course of 10-15 years.  In order to become an expert at something, you need to dedicate 10,000 hours of your life perfecting that skill. 1,800 hours per year times 10 years and well… you can do the math.


Now, I understand that you can’t expect your child to workout an additional 5 hours per day for the rest of their lives – It’s not a realistic scenario. But there are so many aspects of the sports that your child plays that they can improve on every day. Plus, being a multi-sport athlete has its benefits.

Excessive smartphone use amongst young children and teenagers is becoming big enough to be a Tedx Talk topic as well. Ann Makosinski is an innovator and entrepreneur that gave a Tedx Talk titled “Why I don’t use a Smartphone”, which has garnered more than 850,000 views on YouTube. Makosinski believes that smartphones are robbing children of their productivity and creativity, summarizing that “Addiction to distraction is the death of creative production”.

Despite Makosinski’s impressive presentation, smartphone use continues to rise amongst young athletes.  So why do we continue to put these distractive, obsessive devices in the hands of young children, robbing them of their creativity? Because parents cave, that’s why.  Young athletes don’t need smartphones.  Young athletes need to go out and practice.

Related: The Best Books That All Athletes Must Read

There are several ways you can encourage your child to practice more and cut down their smartphone use. Here is a 3 step system to encourage your child to put down the phone and practice:

Step 1: Don’t Cave

In order to get your young athlete away from the device, you have to make the decision to take it away.  Seems simple, right?  Well, it’s not because of one single reason:  It’s the step with the most conflict and will potentially spark a massive overreaction from your son or daughter.  Parents cave at this point because they don’t want to deal with the conflict from their child.

This is where you have to stand strong, stay calm, and educate them that practice takes precedence over their phone.

Step 2: Teach Your Child How To Practice

In order be drawn away from their smartphone, your child needs to be shown how to practice. This is a great opportunity for you to bond with them and show them how practicing can be fun.  You can spark their interest by practicing with them or by making fun games or challenges within their deliberate practice.

All you have to do is show them that practice can be fun and challenging at the same time. Encourage them to improve and celebrate their little victories when they achieve milestones within their practice.

Step 3: Set Milestones That Encourage Your Child To Practice

Once your child starts practicing, you need to create milestones for them to achieve in order to keep them engaged with their practice.  Maybe its a goal such make 10 shots in a row, practice stick handling for 2 hours per week, or hit 1,000 golf balls in a week.  Whatever the goal is, you need to make it achievable through deliberate practice.

Don’t make your goal performance based because it creates pressure.  Once your child develops a strong skill set, then you can move to that model. What you can do to start is incentivize their practices by creating a reward system for them when they achieve a goal.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have smartphones – and I’m classified as a millennial. And, if you’re a parent, you didn’t either. What did we do? We practiced. Being a hockey player growing up in California, we would rollerblade to the local tennis court to stickhandle with SmartHockey Balls.  It cost us 50 cents to keep the court lights on for 30 minutes after dark and we played until we thought our parents would become paranoid that we weren’t home.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a former General Manager of a junior hockey team I played for when I was 17.  He played the game professionally and the best piece of advice that he said he could give us was: “Jumping Rope saved my professional career. 30 minutes a day, every day I would jump rope until I couldn’t get off of the ground anymore.” So, I went home, bought a speed jump rope just like this one and started jumping rope in my backyard to get quicker feet.

Also during that same year, one of my teammates had an absolute cannon of a shot with quick release. I was fascinated by his ability to shoot the puck and I had to know his secrets so that I could add it into my game. He told me that all he did was train his grip so that his stick couldn’t turn in his hands when he shot the puck, giving him the maximum amount of leverage possible he could put on the stick.

Related: The One Reason Why Kids Quit Playing Sports

His grip allowed him to transfer the maximum amount of energy to the shaft of the stick so that he could use its flex to propel the puck. I was blown away. Science.  So, I went home, bought a grip trainer just like this one, and squeezed my life away every day until my forearms looked like popeye. It worked too. Every day my shot got harder and I started scoring more goals from snap shots and wrist shots outside of the scoring area.

smartphone use hockey slide board
Training is so much more productive than surfing the internet.

Also, when I was a teenager, I shot pucks every summer on a piece of plastic just like this one on the side of my house. I’d follow the routine of 150 wrist shots, 150 backhands, and 150 snapshots, aiming for corners and trying to hit pipes to improve my accuracy.  On top of that, I had a Hockey Slide Board in my parents attic. I would go back and forth on it for 20 minutes at a time trying to build my legs up and work on my stride. When I was 16, I read an article that Jaromir Jagr did 1,000 body weight squats every morning when he woke up as a child to build his leg strength.  So, I tried to match him. I could only get to 250 before I would tap out.

I was always trying to be a guinea pig and test exercises that I could do to make me a better player.  Why? Because I truly loved practicing. I had a ton of distractions to deal with too. Video games were extremely popular at the time, as they are today, and being a teenager came with its challenges of trying to balance time between playing sports and hanging out with friends.

Put your foot down, take the smartphone away, and encourage your child to practice new things.  Here’s how:

I’m not trying to grandstand and tell you how to parent your child. Odds are that if you clicked on this article, you’re at a crossroads on how to manage your child’s smartphone use. I wrote this article because I believe that its smartphone use is a growing trend, and its a complete waste of time for kids that want to be an NCAA collegiate athlete.

Related: 5 Steps You Can Take As An Athlete To Reach Your Full Potential

There’s a ton of ways for your child to entertain themselves and practice their skills at the same time with the equipment and products that are out there today. There are nets, shooting boards, stick handling trainers, stick handling balls, speed ladders, plyometric boxes, passing trainers, slide boards, balance boards, you name it – and I’m just talking about hockey.  There is a ton of equipment out there for athletes to develop their skills on their own time.

It’s no guarantee that your child will make it if they cut their smartphone use and work their tail off every day. Less than 1% of players end up making it.  However, you’d have to be delusional to think that practicing more than 10,000 hours in a lifetime would move them farther away from that goal.

The average person spends 25 hours per month just sending text messages.  All I am saying is imagine how much better their wrist shot/jump shot/throwing/dribbling/golf swing would get each month if they just cut down their smartphone use. Instead of buying a $1,000 smartphone that costs $49.99 per month, why wouldn’t you put that money into training gear so that they can work towards earning a $250,000 scholarship?