Social Media and FOMO: What the Fear of Missing Out is Doing to Your Family — Part 1

Monday, 14 October, 2019

Happy pictures capture happy moments, right? That seems like a simple concept. But why is it that the concept of “moments” doesn’t apply when we gaze into the world of social media? “Moment” translates into “always” in the blink of a Facebook or Instagram refresh.

When I think of why I originally signed up for Facebook over a decade ago, I can honestly say it was to reconnect with people I thought were lost to me. It was fun to catch up, to see what people were doing, to watch families be created, and witness adventures unfolding. But somewhere along the way, this ceased to be the full extent of my motivation.

Does social media influence your mood? 

A darker side emerged as I realized how my emotional state could easily pull my feelings in one direction or another. I could get on Facebook perfectly happy and close the tab grumpy, irritated, and disgruntled.

I could also use it as a tool to improve my emotional state—that is, if my community played along with me in my game. By posting a picture, I could let the comments and likes fill up what was empty and lacking in my heart. “Look what I did! Look how happy we are! #Blessed!”

We essentially expect people to affirm what we already appear to know. But do we really know? If we did, would we need this much external affirmation?

It’s hard not to compare our pictures with those of others. We post a picture, so full, alive, and content, but our feed refreshes and we see someone so full, so alive, and so content, too, but on the beaches of Maui when we were on a lake in Kentucky.

We post a picture of ourselves at home on New Year’s Eve celebrating with those we love in pajamas and plastic champagne flutes. We are so happy to have such good friends! But our feed refreshes and there we find others celebrating with their loved ones, but all dressed up, maybe on Times Square with crystal champagne flutes. We were excited to spend a cozy night at home with hot tea and Netflix, but our feed refreshes and we realize we weren’t invited to the party down the street.

There’s a name for this—FOMO

Social media can make what we were grateful for pale in comparison to what others have or experience. We are left questioning—is there something better out there for me, too? If so, we don’t want to miss it.

As a result, we spend hours perusing, continually checking, inhibiting our very ability to have a better quality of life with the very people who are truly invested in us. The name for this is FOMO or fear of missing out.

One study defined FOMO as ‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out—that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.’’

We’re doing this as 30-year-olds—and 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds. And our brains are completely developed! We have an entire generation under us that don’t have that luxury yet. We should be able to see there is an unending cycle at work here that, if left unchecked, will leave us hungry, fearful, and discontent with the things we do have and do experience.

As parents, we need to make sure we disengage from this cycle so we can teach our kids how to disengage, too.

Next week learn about the real dangers of FOMO and social media and how to curb this addiction in yourself and your kids!

This week’s guest contributor, Jen Ferguson, is from Protect Young Minds, a national organization whose mission is to empower parents, professionals and community leaders to protect kids from pornography and harmful content.

Unplug for Fun!

Thursday, 10 October, 2019

One of the most important things to do as a family is unplug! But unplugging should be more than having your kids turn in their phones at dinner or bedtime. It should be an opportunity to connect, laugh, and realize life CAN be fun without technology!

Fun really hasn’t changed over the years, so take time to remember what you loved to do during the fall months growing up, then ask your kids what sounds fun to them—there’s a good chance that your memories and their ideas will coincide! 

Here are some great fall activities to consider:

Get Creative

  • Carve or paint pumpkins
  • Make a Thankful Pumpkin (Purchase a white styrofoam pumpkin and take turns writing down blessings with Sharpie markers)
  • Create a variety of fall crafts (leaf rubbings, Q-tip tree paintings, bookmarks, etc.)
  • Decorate for the holidays

Good Food & Good Times

  • Make a fall dessert (like the pumpkin chocolate chip bread recipe below!)
  • Bake homemade bread
  • Toast pumpkin seeds
  • Take a treat to a widow

Homemade Fun

  • Play board games
  • Build a fort
  • Plan a friend or family party
  • Create some new family traditions
  • Write thank-you notes
  • Make an “unplug” bucket list for next month

Take it Outside

  • Rake leaves and jump in the piles
  • Decorate the sidewalks with chalk pumpkins
  • Explore the fall colors in the city
  • Go on a hike
  • Make a picnic
  • Gather around a bonfire
  • Take a family picture

Fall Forays

  • Find a local service project on
  • Go to a pumpkin patch
  • Find a local corn maze
  • Take a hayride
  • Attend a local fair
  • Scream at a haunted house
  • Take each child on a special one-on-one date 

And since family fun is always better with treats, try this great fall recipe!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread


1-2/3 c  flour
1 c  sugar
1 T  pumpkin spice
1 t  baking soda
1/4 t  baking powder
Dash of salt

2  Eggs
1 c  Canned pumpkin
1/2 c  Melted butter
1 c  Chocolate chips


1. Melt butter and let it cool.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
3. Mix all the wet ingredients together and combine.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Fill two bread pans 2/3 full (about 1 1/2 cups each).
6. Bake at 350º for 40–45 minutes.

Phones Up, Empathy Down

Wednesday, 9 October, 2019

Why empathy is on the decrease with our youth and what phones have to do with it

Did you know that empathy can affect our kids’ future health, success, happiness, relationships, and overall well being? It’s also a positive predictor of our children’s success in learning. If you Google empathy, you will find a plethora of articles on big-name companies trying to integrate empathy exercises into their businesses. Forbes urges companies to adopt empathy principles.

We as parents want our children to have empathy. Empathy makes our children better people. Which makes the world a better place. That’s why it’s alarming to see empathy rapidly decreasing in today’s youth while self-absorption is on the rise. Studies show empathy has decreased 40 percent while narcissism has increased 58 percent.

My name is April Whiting. I am a digital wellness educator and the mother to four boys. I spend many hours in schools talking with students about what it’s like to grow up in a heavy tech world. They spend more time communicating through screens than they do face to face. They are losing the ability to read facial cues and have appropriate eye contact. Feelings aren’t learned by looking at screens. When we lose the ability to read facial expressions, we lose empathy.

We lead for being the least mentally healthy nation in the world. Grades are over the top, but we are the loneliest. College students are dropping out at staggering rates. When you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, their answers have changed from policemen and firefighters to “rich and famous” and “YouTube Stars.” Michele Borba, author of the book Unselfie refers to this as the “Selfie Syndrome.” Selfies are all the rage as teens—and people in general—post endless photos of themselves on social media and wait on the edge of their seats for likes and comments of praise. The term selfie has become so popular, Oxford Dictionary chose it as its 2014 word of the year. Selfie Syndrome is altering our children’s offline lives. The condition is slowly eroding our children’s character and killing their empathy.

As empathy wains, things like cyber-bullying and racism increase. Our children are bombarded by cyber-bullies constantly. Unlike when we were young, bullies follow our children home. They sleep in our homes, sometimes in the same room as our children. How? On their phones!

It’s not just our children that are excessively plugged in. 66 percent of children feel their parents are addicted to their phones. As I mentioned earlier I spend a good amount of time in classrooms talking to students. In our group discussions, I always ask the students to raise their hand if they feel their parents spend too much time on their phones. The majority of hands always go up. Emotions start to join our conversation. Tears flow. These children are begging to be seen, heard, and loved. We as parents must take a step back and look at our own technology habits. When our children are talking to us do we put our phones down, put our eyes up, and listen? Or do we give them half our face while our cell phones cover the other half?

We must create time to unplug as a family and create meaningful experiences that cultivate empathy. A few opportunities to unplug as a family include:

1. Device-free Dinners

Family dinners provide an opportunity to strengthen ties and build better relationships. Studies show that children who have family dinner often have better mental health and are less likely to use drugs. I recommend dinner tables have a basket that all devices go in during dinner. All devices—Mom and Dad’s, too. That email can wait! You can add a little fun by saying the first person to grab their device is on dish duty!

2. Central Charging Station

Choose a curfew for your devices. It’s important not to let children take their devices into their bedroom all night. Not only is it affecting their sleep habits, this is when they are most likely to make poor choices with their devices.

3. Create More Unplugged Moments

Are you creating opportunities as a family to unplug? Play a board game, throw a football, take a family walk. Read books with your kids—books raise empathy, not iPads. Creating these opportunities helps decrease your child’s screen time naturally, as well as yours!

Empathy is a verb. It needs to be active, stretched and exercised like a muscle. The more unplugged moments our children have, the more healthy emotional literacy they will have. Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything!

April Whiting is a certified digital wellness educator. For more information and resources, visit April’s website and

8 ideas for creating family cell phone guidelines that rock! — Part 3 of 3

Friday, 4 October, 2019

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve covered six ideas for creating guidelines for our kids’ cell phones: 

  1. Make it a special event.
  2. Get rid of the word “rules.”
  3. Cell phones aren’t bad or good—it all depends on how we use them.
  4. Make it their idea.
  5. Listen.
  6. Empower.

This week we’ll finish up with these two! 

Nobody’s Perfect 

Let your kids know we ALL make mistakes. Find out what ideas they have for being consistent and how they can kindly remind each other when someone messes up. Instead of focusing on the consequences of NOT following the guidelines, encourage your kids to keep trying and compliment them when you see they’re following the rules. 

Most importantly, mention how much you trust them to make good decisions. Our kids will do their very best to live up to whatever we think they’re capable of doing! 

Thank Them for Their Awesome Ideas

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to thank each of your kids for their suggestions, ideas, and willingness to participate. Mention how excited you are to get started on this new plan and how it’s going to be such a wonderful thing for the whole family!

I hope these ideas can help your family when it comes time to create your own guidelines!

8 ideas for creating family cell phone guidelines that rock! — Part 2 of 3

Friday, 27 September, 2019

Last week, I posted three ideas on how to start talking about family cellphone guidelines, and this week I’ve got three more!

These are my FAVORITES of all eight of them because they’ve made the biggest difference in my relationship with my two kids. They’re guaranteed to win your kids over every. single. time. 🙂

Make It Their Idea

Getting kids to want to do something can be tough, especially if you know they’re not going to want to do it in the first place. So what’s the answer? 

Get them to think your idea is theirs. 

All you need to do is ask the right questions and get them thinking!

  • “What do you think about ______________?” 
  • “What are some of the positive/negative things that can come from doing ______________?”
  • “How can we help each other do better at ______________?” 
  • “How can Mom and Dad do a better job at ______________?” This will be their favorite question of all and there’s an excellent chance that whatever they suggest, they’ll recognize they should do, too.

It really is possible to get your kids to do something they don’t want. It’s all in your approach!


Have you ever heard that being listened to is so close to being loved that many cannot tell the difference? Listening to our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give anyone!

The sure way to skip the all-to-familiar frustration and contention that accompanies the cell phone discussion is to ask your kids for their opinions, ideas, and advice. Let them know they’ve got your full attention, too!

  • Make direct eye contact.
  • Don’t interrupt. Let them share their ENTIRE thought and wait a few seconds before commenting, so you know they’re totally finished.
  • Repeat back what they’ve said. “Thanks for sharing that! So what I’m hearing you say is that you want to ______________. Is that right?” If you’ve got it wrong, they’ll let you know.


As parents, our comments play a significant role in how our kids feel about themselves, their ability to overcome challenges, and how they treat others. During the cell phone conversation, look for opportunities to build them up and make them feel awesome!

  • Validate their ideas and build their confidence. “That’s a great idea!” “How did you think of that?” 
  • Make them feel knowledgeable. “You’re so smart!” “Wow, you have the best ideas!”
  • Try to understand. Regardless of what they say, let them state their opinion without any judgment or criticism. Even if you don’t agree, you can always comment, “That’s a different way of looking at it. I really appreciate you sharing that.”

Use these three skills with your kids and make the most difficult discussions some of the best!

8 ideas for creating family cell phone guidelines that rock! — Part 1 of 3

Friday, 20 September, 2019

“One of the hardest things to do in this life is create a family plan that everyone agrees on.”

Have you ever had an experience where your best intentions produced the exact opposite of what you wanted? I sure have! 

What has surprised me is that over the last 21 years I’ve been a mom my failures and mistakes have become the greatest tools in helping me figure out how to parent smarter, empower my kids, and create a stronger bond between us.

Having the cell-phone-dos-and-don’ts conversation is something we all kind of dread. So over the next few weeks, I’ll share 8 ideas that I’ve found successful when talking to my kids and have had a really positive on our family.

My hope is that they can help parents create a successful cell phone plan their kids will stick to—and accomplish in a way that fosters unity, empathy, and love!

Make It a Special Event 

A sure way to get your kids to whine and sulk is for them to think they’re being called together to hear new rules they believe will make their lives harder. 

So how do you get around this while still talking about a difficult subject? 

One way is to gather your family in a way that feels unique and fun. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get your creative juices flowing!

  • What is a dessert you rarely serve that your kids loooooove?
  • Is there a place you could go to make the gathering unique? Outside on the lawn, a park, a restaurant?
  • Is there a fun activity you could do before or afterward? Movie, swimming, bike ride?

Whatever you end up doing, your goal is to create a good, positive feeling among everyone! 

Get Rid of the Word “Rules”

It’s part of our human nature to rebel against absolute authority or anything that takes away our ability to choose. Because the word RULES has an especially negative connotation among kids, it can easily provoke this same reaction.

Instead of creating RULES for cell phones, use a word that evokes a sense of choice. Try using synonyms like guidelines, plans, boundaries, or healthy habits. If you choose your words carefully, you’ll be able to foster a feeling of openness, encourage participation and get the outcome you’re looking for.

Are Cell Phones Bad or Good?

Kids are always hearing the negative things about cell phones, so clarify that a phone has the ability to be positive and negative. It all depends on how we use them. 

The easiest way to explain this is to compare a cell phone to money. Ask your kids these questions:

  • What are some ways money can be spent to make our lives better? 
  • What are some ways money can be spent that can hurt us or others?

Explain that cell phones are like money. Discuss ways they can enrich our lives and how they can negatively affect us. Talking about this will encourage your kids to recognize and think about the type of influence their phones can play in their lives.

These are just a few suggestions I hope will be helpful in creating a plan and get you thinking of other positive ways to approach your kids about cell phones. 

Feel free to share this article and be sure to check back next week for more ideas about creating a family cell phone plan that rocks!

What is the right age to give a child their first phone?

Wednesday, 14 August, 2019

We get asked this question a lot, and the truth is, it’s not one we can answer—it’s different for every family and for every child.

Bill Gates didn’t allow his kids to have phones until 14, but he was an anomaly—the average age for kids to receive their first phone in the United States is now 10.3. This age continues to decrease as more and more families cut the cord with landlines and as parents seek increased connection with their children amid schedules that seem to get busier and busier.

We encourage parents to thoughtfully consider the needs of their families and the personality of each child. Whether that age for your family is 8, 10, 12 or 14, we believe that a child’s first phone should be a phone first. The Gabb Phone and Gabb network are designed to provide parents with peace of mind while giving kids the freedom to enjoy unlimited talk and text without the distraction or dangers of browsing, apps, games and social media.