Parents Blaming Phones: Why?

Here’s why parents blame everything on phones:

There are many reasons why parents might blame things on phones.

They might be looking for a scapegoat for problems or mistakenly assuming that correlation equals causation.

In a non-zero number of cases, the blame might actually be warranted, and the parents are correctly identifying a problem.

So if you want to learn all about why parents hold phones responsible for a lot of problems, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Parents Blaming Phones: Why? (Everything to Know)

Do Parents Blame Everything on Phones? (4 Things)

Preteen Bullied Girl Feeling Lonely And Sad At Home

Let’s clarify a few things.

It would probably be unfair to say that all parents always blame everything on phones.

That’s an extreme statement, and it’s not the point that we’re trying to discuss today.

It might not even be fair to say that any parents blame phones for everything.

We also probably shouldn’t say that all parents blame phones for some things.

It’s easy to imagine that there are parents out there who don’t blame phones for anything.

With all of that clarification in mind, we can explore an idea.

Sometimes, there are parents who blame things on phones, and that blame may or may not be merited.

That’s what I want to dig into with you today.

With that in mind, I’m going to cover some of the most common things that get blamed on phones.

I’m going to avoid going too hard in any direction as to whether or not phones actually cause these problems.

The true, scientific answer is that it’s all very complicated, and reducing a situation to either it is or isn’t the phone’s fault is going to be reductive.

#1 Mental Health Problems

Sad woman sitting on couch alone at home

One of the most common things you are likely to hear in this vein of thought is that phones are causing mental health problems.

You may have heard that there is a mental health crisis.

Kids and teenagers are facing unprecedented levels of depression and anxiety.

Plenty of other mental health problems are also on the rise.

You may have even seen news segments that suggest that phones and phone usage are to blame. 

Like I said earlier, concluding whether or not phones cause any mental health problems is very difficult, but what we do know is that sometimes parents see their kids struggling in this regard and blame the phone.

They might even try to restrict phone access as a potential solution to the problem.

#2 Phone Addiction

Girl awake in bed using cellphone at night

There’s also something known as phone addiction.

This is like any other addiction, but the focal point is a smartphone.

Kids or young adults who are addicted to their phones might feel separation or anxiety when they can’t access their phones.

The behavior is also associated with extensive phone usage—amounting to many more hours spent using a phone than the average person.

This is really a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

Do smartphones cause addiction, or do addictive traits attach to smartphones in the absence of other focal points?

We don’t need to answer that today, but you can probably imagine parents blaming this addiction on the phones themselves.

#3 Scholastic Issues

Stressed and worried girl durig exam at school

Maybe this is more what you had in mind.

Kids come in all varieties, and that includes varieties of scholastic success.

If a kid is struggling in school, a parent might look for the causes of that struggle.

Most parents want to see their kids do well in school.

After all, scholastic performance often correlates with professional success.

So, we all tend to subscribe to the idea that getting a good education is generally good for all of us.

When a kid isn’t getting that “good education,” a parent might try to blame the phone and/or the amount of time spent on the phone.

#4 Focus Problems

student with problems or stress at the desk

Some might throw this idea in with school, but parents can blame phones for focus problems outside of school.

Maybe a kid has a problem with sports.

Perhaps they struggle to focus on their piano lessons.

It could be related to any hobby, chores, or other activities.

The trend here is that there is a noticeable problem with focusing on tasks.

When that issue presents itself, some parents will blame the smartphone and how it “promotes” a short attention span.

You might see variations of this argument.

The gist is that it’s the phone’s fault that the child is struggling.

Why Do Parents Blame the Phones? (3 Reasons)

angry mother and sad daughter with phone at home

Ok. We’ve established clear cases where parents really do blame problems on phones, and they are problems that merit concern.

Now, we can dig into the bigger question.


Why do parents think that phones are the devil and creating all of this chaos?

Is there any merit at all to their accusations?

I’m still not going to take sides, but I will try to walk you through justifications for these thoughts and feelings.

From there, you can decide for yourself what is and isn’t reasonable or even productive.

As is the case with most things in life, the full range of answers is complicated, and there are no simple resolutions to the issues we’re discussing today.

But, more information never hurts, and that’s what I’m trying to give you here.

#1 Correlation

Daughter with smartphone in hands ignoring mom, misunderstanding

Let’s all say it together, “Correlation does not equal causation.”

If, by some miracle, you aren’t familiar with that line, then allow me to explain it.

In science, you often measure things and look for how changes in your measurement correlate with things that could have caused the change.

As an example, if you’re measuring obesity rates among minors, you might notice that the rates went up after the release of a new, popular snack food (this is hypothetical, not an actual measurement).

It would be easy to assume that the new snack food was unhealthy and caused that rise in obesity.

But, that simple correlation isn’t able to tell the whole story.

Maybe other foods also contributed.

Maybe there was a sudden shortage of healthier foods.

Maybe sports programs were canceled and kids were getting less exercise in general.

There are a lot of potential maybes, and until you can rule them out, the correlation that you saw doesn’t prove that you know the real cause of a problem.

Let’s bring this back to phones.

With any of the problems I mentioned in the previous sections, you can imagine a scenario where the issue correlates with phone usage.

Let’s say a kid gets their first smartphone for their 12th birthday.

Up until then, they had none of the issues listed above, and by their 13th birthday, they’re suffering from every scenario.

It’s easy to assume that the phone caused the problems, but let’s remember that kids are often undergoing a lot of physiological changes in that age range.

The phone might have nothing to do with any of it.

The point is that it’s easy to blame the phone when you see a clear correlation.

That doesn’t mean that the phone is really at fault.

#2 Scapegoating

Mom and teenage daughter

Sometimes, blame has nothing to do with correlations or even logic.

Sometimes, parents see their kids struggling, and they’re looking for something to blame.

When they target the phone, it provides a scapegoat, and from that point of view, the phone is something that can be attacked.

The parent has the ability to take productive action (at least from this point of view), and that feels good.

So, whether the phone is the actual problem or not, they’re just trying to find some kind of positive change, and they target the phone.

It’s easy to pick on parents in this case, and constructive criticism is probably fair.

But, it’s also important to remember that parents are often struggling to find the best options for their kids.

Sometimes, they pick the wrong scapegoat or make a mistake.

#3 A Real Chain of Logic

Girl distracting from homework

This is the part that makes this discussion so difficult.

At least some behavior-based problems actually can be linked to smartphone knowledge.

I’ll elaborate in a moment, but we know that going outside and connecting with nature is good for your brain and mental health.

We also know that staring at screens can mess with your sleep cycle.

There’s a lot of evidence that’s not quite so conclusive that shows that spending a whole lot of time on phones can be bad for us in a number of ways, despite the many positives that can come from phone usage.

Let me delve a little deeper into this.

There is no conclusive science that says using a phone is always bad for you.

Instead, the research shows that in some cases, phone usage really is the source of various problems.

Poor sleep, depression, and anxiety are probably the best understood among these issues.

What does that mean for parents blaming things on phones?

Sometimes, it actually is the right answer.

Without looking at a very specific scenario, it’s virtually impossible to say when the phone is or isn’t the source of an issue.

But, since it’s at least possible that the phone is problematic, it’s important to remember that in this discussion.

Let’s really drive this home.

There are a lot of reasons for a parent to blame things on a phone.

In plenty of cases, the blame is unwarranted, but in at least some cases, the blame is legitimate.