The Luddite Kids saying NO to Smartphones

“Spend time getting to know yourself and exploring the world around you. It’s so much more fulfilling — and so much more real — than the one inside your expensive little box.” – teenager Lola Schub

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Mackenzie Bergin's flip phone is quite a contrast to smartphones used by friends Darren Kaplan (left) and Robin O'Hara.
Mackenzie Bergin’s flip phone is quite a contrast to smartphones used by friends Darren Kaplan (left) and Robin O’Hara.Annie Wermiel, New York Post

I write a lot about boxes and breaking out of them. That’s why my Substack is called Break Free!

If you want a big smile on your face, have a look at the short video below of Dylan Reeves who refuses to live in the box along with all the other kids. This amazingly courageous and quick-witted 7th grader, took control of his school bus after the driver passed out, saving 60 lives.

Why was Dylan able to do this? He was the ONLY kid not distracted by a smartphone—because, incredibly, he doesn’t have one! Even after Dylan stops the bus and yells at the other kids for someone to call 911, they are so zombified they still don’t get what’s going on.

Generation Z, those people born between 1997 to 2012, are the first generation to have never known a life without smartphones and social media. They inherited a world of unprecedented chaos. Historical events like wars, recessions, and social movements have defined past generations. A pandemic is no different. Forced into isolation at home for months on end, they missed out on major youth milestones, like graduations, football games and school dances. Isn’t it lucky that smartphones were there to comfort them? Instead of socializing in the real world, they ended up averaging 7.7 hours a day on their screens.

But it wasn’t always like that. A 2018 The Guardian article introduced us to the teens who refused to use social media:

While many of us have been engrossed in the Instagram lives of our co-workers and peers, a backlash among young people has been quietly boiling. One 2017 survey of British schoolchildren found that 63% would be happy if social media had never been invented.

This is part of a wider trend. According to a study by US marketing firm Hill Holliday of Generation Z, half of those surveyed stated they had quit or were considering quitting at least one social media platform. When it comes to Gen Z’s relationship to social media, “significant cracks are beginning to show”, says the firm’s Lesley Bielby.

What happened? Oh, yeah, Covid happened. All that resolve to be in the real world disappeared as kids got sucked into a fake one.

In 2020, WHO and Global Citizen announced: ‘One World: Together at home’ Global Special to support healthcare workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

It seemed so inspiring. Everyone might have been sitting at home in isolation (manipulated to be there when they should have been outside in the fresh air, I might add) but they could all be one inside their devices. Isn’t that beautiful? Everyone in the entire world with the same hive mind.

One World: Together At Home was a “globally televised and streamed special in support of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Madison Love - Sour Candy (Writer’s Demo) - YouTube
Ladt Gaga performing for “One World”

It was state propaganda, no different from what I would see on TV when I lived in communist Yugoslavia in the 80s. Only this was global. People all over the world being brainwashed into complete compliance.

At the same time online gaming skyrocketed as the new place to meet people and make meaningful connections. A BBC article talked about how “with the rise of social media, gamers – particularly in Gen Z – have perfected the art of building communities in and around video games. Gamers don’t just compete with strangers on the internet, but forge genuine, enduring friendships.”

That’s all great, but Covid was a strategy to manipulate everyone, especially young people, to feel more comfortable connecting in fake worlds rather than the real one. And that’s not healthy, either mentally or physically—shouldn’t that be obvious? Mega corporations were the ones who benefited. Gaming boomed during the pandemic, and the global gaming industry is expected to be worth $321 billion by 2026.

Once kids were allowed out of lockdowns, is it any wonder their devices came along too. You will seldom see a teenager—or anyone for that matter—without a phone in his or her hand.

Not too long ago, I observed a girl around ten-years of age, completely lose her marbles in a restaurant when her I-pad dropped on the floor (actually, not the first time I’ve seen this happen). She kept screaming, her face contorted with agony and rage, No, no. You’d have thought someone had just been decapitated in front of her, but it was only that the screen had cracked. Then she turned on her mortified parents, demanding to know why they hadn’t bought a case for it. She’d told them to buy a case—a million times! Her parents tried to calm her down, to no effect. Eventually, they were able to get her out of the restaurant, their dinners left untouched.

Like me, everyone in the restaurant was mesmerized by the drama. But once the girl and her parents were gone, most of the people returned to what they had been doing before. And guess what that was? Staring at their smartphones.

It’s hard for a kid to feel comfortable in the real world, even when everything is going well. Kids want desperately to fit in. Adolescence is an agonizing time. Returning to school, a place that already had enough problems before Covid, wasn’t easy.

I read an article this morning that said Students are increasingly refusing to go to school. It’s becoming a mental health crisis.


The article starts with the story of Jane Demsky finding the police have come to her house to take away her teenage son.

He never stole, used illegal substances, or physically hurt anyone. He just didn’t go to school.

It started in the middle of 6th grade when he began staying home from school on days his anxiety was too difficult to manage. Those days became more frequent, turning into weeks and months, until he stopped going altogether. Now an officer was at her house, waiting to take her son to school.

Demsky sought help from educators, doctors and counselors, trying to understand what was stopping her son from going to school for nearly a year. Finally, a psychiatrist told Demsky about a condition that affects a growing number of students with severe anxiety: school avoidance. 

Demsky describes her son’s diagnosis as a “revelation”. At last, she knew what was “wrong” with him, thanks to the experts. It never occurred to her that it could be the system’s fault that her son didn’t want to go to school. That’s because most people believe what the experts say is gospel truth. And if the parent(s) don’t go along with the diagnosis, the system will shift the blame from the child to the parents.

I’m not a big fan of the current educational set-up. Thousands of hormone-crazed kids locked up together for 8 hours a day, with angry teachers who seem to hate them.

I was pretty shy as a teenager. Some days it took all my courage just to walk into the cafeteria, knowing everyone would be staring at me since, at sixteen, I was 6 feet tall and skinny as a stick. If I could have had an operation chopping off a few inches in my height I might have done it—especially if I had “experts” telling me constantly that if I did, it would make me happy. I was regularly miserable and resented my strict parents who didn’t let me dress how I wanted. Now, I would be diagnosed with a mental health problem. Back then, it was just how kids behaved and it was expected they would grow out of it, not get labeled so they would never get over it.

Forcing kids to isolate and wear masks in public trained them to hide behind false identities. Kids started communicating online instead of in person. Now, children as young as 3 years old love going on smart phones. They interact with Alexa and speak to “her” as if it’s a person in their home that they can order around. “Alexa,” says almost every 5-year-old that I know, “Play the jumping song,” or whatever. A 5-year-old will videochat, adeptly clicking the right places to put fun filters on their faces, making them look like anything but themselves—a lion, a clown, a vampire, anything. They can also put on backgrounds that look like outer space or a castle, again, anything. It seems innocent enough. But it’s like starting someone on their first cigarette, or their first drug. It only escalates. Once they are teenagers, they will never show you their real selves if they can help it.

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