FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Help! I’m Addicted to My Phone: Jay Y. Kim

with Jay Y. Kim | February 28, 2024
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"I use my phone a lot. Doesn't everyone?" Truth: Our phones are designed to keep us scrolling and swiping at all costs. Jay Kim reveals eye-opening ways our phones can create a prison for our souls and impact the life and future of the worldwide church.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Truth: Phones are designed to keep us scrolling and swiping at all costs. Jay Kim reveals eye-opening ways our phones can impact our souls and the church.

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Help! I’m Addicted to My Phone: Jay Y. Kim

With Jay Y. Kim
February 28, 2024
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Jay: I think there’s actually an increasing awareness of what digital technology is doing to us. I just read the other day—somebody posted something about—that where the trends are heading, in 10 to 15 years, having a primarily non-digital life will be sort of a status symbol, that you’re living a much more full, rich life.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: Alright, did you see the 20-something girl sitting beside me on the flight the other night?

Ann: The one that was on the computer?

Dave: Yes.

Ann: I did notice that.

Dave: You noticed that?

Ann: I did.

Dave: Yes. You were sitting across the aisle; I don’t know if you noticed this. She sat down, said “Hi, how are you doing?” and that was the end of the conversation, because she opened her phone, and she never one time stopped scrolling. I shouldn’t have been that nosy.

Ann: Well, she had her computer on her lap.

Dave: She had that, too, but she had her phone going and her computer going. I just thought, “She’s never turned it off,” and I know she paid for the Wi-Fi (I never pay for the Wi-Fi because I’m not going to spend that money).

Ann: She had stuff to do.

Dave: I thought, “What a world we live in.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I thought, if I wanted to have a conversation, she would have been annoyed that I was interrupting her digital world.

Ann: She might have been creating the best manuscript of her life, and you’re judging her?

Dave: I’m not judging her. [Laughter] I’m just making an observation. We live in a digital time.

Ann: We do.

Dave: We’re going to talk about that today with Jay Kim. He is in the digital world in California. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Jay: Yes, thanks so much for having me. I’m glad to be on.

Dave: When you hear that story, is that unusual at all?

Jay: Not at all; not at all. I don’t think it’s unusual for anybody listening.

Ann: I don’t either. It’s not unusual for us, either, because when we’re on the plane, we’re doing the same thing.

Dave: Yes; we’re going to talk about this whole thing. You’ve thought a lot about it, [and] even wrote a book called Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience, and Wisdom in the Digital Age. Tell our listeners what you do. I know you pastor out in northern California.

Jay: Yes, San Francisco Bay area. I’m in a city called San Jose, right on the border of San Jose and Cupertino. People know Cupertino because that’s where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, in that little garage, started Apple. Apple’s main campus, the big giant spaceship, is a seven-minute drive from our campus.

Dave: Really?

Jay: I have been there basically my whole life, been a pastor there for over 20 years; and here we are.

Dave: So, let’s talk about this analog idea, because of all people, you live right in the center of digital world. What were you thinking when you say, “I have to compare the digital age with analog Christian?”

Jay: Honestly, it didn’t start out with the thought of writing a book. It just started out with a growing awareness of my own addiction to digital technology. I have two young kids. They are eight and five now, but when my son, the five-year-old, was born—my daughter is three, and he’s probably two, three weeks old—I’m watching them at home. They are lying on the floor, and my daughter leans over to give him a kiss on the cheek (her newborn baby brother) and I do what every parent does. I pull out my phone.

“This is it! This is my Instagram winner of the year!” [Laughter] I’m already imagining how many likes, how many shares, all of that stuff. So, I take this photo, and then I just find myself, my actual human children are lying right in front of me, and I’m just immersed in my screen trying to edit the photo with the right filter. You have to crop it right. I’m trying to figure out the caption to get maximized likes.

While I’m doing this, I feel a tug on my pant leg. It’s my three-year-old, so I look past the digital image of my daughter to my actual, human daughter, and she says to me, “No more email, Daddy. No more email.”

Dave: Wow! A three-year-old.

Jay: A three-year-old. And what it told me was, in three years of life, this little girl has already experienced me, her dad, physically present but absent in every other way, typically checking my email; that she just thought ,“It’s happening again.” So, that’s what really started the journey for me.

I knew there was something happening in me that I didn’t want to continue, so I started reading a lot, not Christian writers, just secular writers who were writing extensively about what digital technologies were doing to us; not just what they were doing for us, but how they were forming us. And then, as a follower of Jesus, I realized the whole journey of following Jesus is about God, by His Spirit, forming us into a certain type of person.

I realized digital technology is forming me. I’m a disciple of digital, not a disciple of Jesus. So, that led to a long journey, which turned into this book and much of my work.

Dave: What did that journey look like? You said you went on a journey. It probably wasn’t that day, but did you start to cut back?

Jay: Yes. I just started instilling particular practices and boundaries around digital. Like you said, it didn’t happen overnight.

Dave: Yes.

Jay: I borrowed from a lot of great thinkers who have talked about instilling—this is an ancient phrase, but instilling—a sort of digital rule of life. There is a writer, Andy Crouch, who has written extensively about this, a dear friend. He’s been such a huge help to me. He talks about “parenting your phone.” In other words, treating your phone as you would treat a three-year-old.

So, in my home, even still, even though my kids are eight and five, the parents—Jenny and I, my wife and I—don’t go to bed before our kids. We typically wake up before our kids, but we don’t go to bed before our kids. So, same deal with our phone. I’m not going to bed with my phone. I’m putting my phone to bed before I go to bed, and I’m waking up before my phone wakes up.

It’s basic things. Our phone doesn’t sit on our nightstand in our bedroom. It’s docked in the kitchen in a little station. So, it’s simple things like that. There are several others, but for us, if I’m not intentional about how I leverage my phone and use my phone, then what I know is the phone will just use me, because I’ve experienced it, and I think a lot of listeners can relate.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Jay: We don’t think about it that way, but that’s what happens.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: So, you actually don’t sleep with your phone in the same room?

Jay: No.

Dave: That sounds—

Ann: —I like [how] you say you put your phone to bed. You dock it down in the kitchen, and you won’t even have it by your bedside, because most of us—we do this, we go to bed, [and] we’re in bed with our phones in our hands.

Jay: Yes, most people.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Not us. We would never do that.

Ann: [Laughter] We totally do it.

Dave: Other people, I’m sure. No, we do.

Ann: I know.

Dave: It’s terrible. So, the mom right now is saying, “Well, what if there’s an emergency? What if someone is trying to get hold of me? I have adult kids, and [if] my phone’s in the kitchen, I don’t hear it.”

Jay: Yes. I would say, let’s remind ourselves that for the entirety of human history until 15 years ago, we did not have phones on our bedside. [Laughter] So, it is possible to live life, right? That much is certain.

Ann: It is possible.

Jay: It is possible to live life without a smartphone and access to the worldwide web of the internet in your final moments before slumber. That is possible. I get it. What if there is an emergency? I don’t know. Maybe what that looks like is getting a landline, and someone can call you if you’re really that concerned. For us, I would say the reason we are able to do this is because the emergencies that matter most, we would know, because it’s in our home.

Dave: Yes, they’re right there.

Jay: It’s my children, it’s my wife right next to me.

Dave: Yes.

Jay: I think the push and the pull is interesting. We can say that: “What if something happens? Here’s my phone.” But the reality is you have your phone with you, attached to you, in that way. Something is happening that entire time, in that you are detaching from the people you probably care about the most, who are right next to you.

A lot of people will say to me, “Well, how will I wake up?” [Laughter] I’m like, “There’s a thing called ‘clocks.’ They are still available.” [Laughter]  It’s really funny. I don’t know. We’re so attached, we’re so addicted, it’s very difficult to imagine a life without it.

Ann: You’re a pastor of a church. You’re talking to Gen Z; you’re talking to all different age groups of people. When you say this, or you preach about this, which I’m assuming you have at church,—

Jay: —yes.

Ann: —what’s the response, especially from kids? Gen Z has been growing up with this. They’ve had this in their hands.

Jay: They’re very open.

Ann: Are they?

Jay: Very open. I think there’s actually an increasing awareness of what digital technology is doing to us. I’m actually quite hopeful that when my children are teenagers and in their college years and in their 20s and young adulthood—I am really hopeful that—the paradigm shifts significantly. I just read the other day—somebody posted something about they think—that where the trends are heading, that in 10 to 15 years, having a primarily non-digital life will be sort of a status symbol, that you’re living a much more full, rich life.

Now, I don’t know if they’re right, but I really, really hope they’re right. Digital is never going away. In fact, I just need to be clear: I’m not anti-digital.

Dave: Right, right.

Jay: I have a smart phone. I use my laptop. I use Zoom and all of those things. I have an Instagram, all of those things. It’s not about the technology, it’s about what we allow or do not allow the technology to do to us. We have control over that, if we decide to take control.

Dave: Have you ever done this? My phone will be sitting on my thigh as I’m watching TV or sitting with Ann, and it won’t even be just email or text. It will be a sermon thought, and I’ll pull it out and make sure I get it in my sermon notes for the weekend. She’s looking at me like, “Where’d you just go?”

Jay: Yes.

Dave: It’s like I went to my office, which I would have done in the old days, shut the door, this is my time to do this, and I come out, I’m present. But now, I’m never really ever separated from that world. Is that your reality as well?

Jay: Yes, 100 percent, even still to this day. There is always the temptation to detach myself from what is actually happening in the present moment, because my brain has been hardwired to move at the pace of the internet. That’s another thing that’s happening to us, so we’re growing really impatient. We’re very scattered, you know?

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Jay: Because we have access to so much, we’re constantly sort of moving, mentally, emotionally, to someplace else. You think about sitting at a red light, you know? I’m always tempted, sitting at a red light, and it’s a long red light; what do we do?

Dave: I usually just go. [Laughter] I just go ahead. Ask Ann. No cars coming? I just go.

Jay: That’s right. That’s an option. That’s an option. For most people, there’s the temptation, and in some states it’s illegal. You can get a ticket.

Dave: It is. It’s now illegal in Michigan to pull out your phone at a stop sign.

Ann: It is.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: Or ever, in your car.

Jay: Yes. In California you can’t physically touch your phone while you are in your car; but I see people doing it every day.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Every day, yes.

Jay: At stoplights; all the time, right?

Dave: Right.

Jay: And it’s because there’s something in us that cannot—cannot—be still in place anymore. There was a time—you know, everyone listening to this hopefully can remember; there was a time—where, at a red light, we would enter a brief little season, a moment of time that was called “boredom.” [Laughter] And you’re talking about sermons. You know what’s really interesting?

Dave: Yes.

Jay: For me, when I really think about it, yes, sometimes, I see something or I hear something, and I think, “Oh, my gosh. I have to remember that.”

Dave: Yes.

Jay: And I capture it, but my best thoughts usually come when it’s quiet and boring, and my mind and my heart have enough space to just be still. That creates the room for God to start filling us with whatever.

Yes, I think we have to learn to embrace boredom again, because I do think boredom is the path to creativity and beauty, and we so rarely get there because we’re constantly distracted.

Dave: Talk about this: is it an escape? Because when you say that, there is part of me that thinks we’re uncomfortable with silence, we’re uncomfortable with thinking deeply.

Jay: Right.

Dave: I think, in a marriage, it can be a distraction that we use to not engage.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: As I sat beside that young lady on the plane, I thought, “She doesn’t want to talk.”

Jay: Right.

Dave: And if I turned and said, “Hey, so where are you going?” which I rarely do, it would have been an intrusion into her digital world that she didn’t want. It was her way of saying, “I’m closing off you and everybody else.” I think we do the same thing in our marriage. Is that something you’ve found? It’s an escape?

Jay: Yes, absolutely. I think we create little bubbles around ourselves. Go to any coffee shop these days. You know, again, pre-smart phone, there was a time when, in a coffee shop, typically you’d be—even if you’re there for long, extended periods of time, typically you are—working or having a conversation with a friend, with background, ambient sounds of humans talking in a coffee shop.

Now, you have a bunch of disconnected individuals with these little white pods in their ears, and socially, [when] you see the white air pods, what does it tell you? Exactly your point, Dave.

Dave: Yes.

Jay: You don’t see the physical bubble, but these little white knobs are a bubble.

Ann: Yes.

Jay: “Do not intrude; do not step in. This is sort of my space.”

So, of course it makes all the sense in the world that all of the data is showing us that, since about 2012, rates of loneliness and isolation have spiked amongst teenagers, because it was in 2012 that we started putting smartphones in the hands of teenagers. Researchers, not Christian, just high-level social scientists like Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge, have done this work for several decades now, and it’s pretty clear. The smart phone has disconnected us.

A writer, Sherry Turkle, has a book titled Alone Together, which I think is so true.

Dave: Yes.

Jay: You think about going out—I was at dinner on Friday night on my own after I landed, and I’m alone—actually, physically alone, but I wasn’t wearing air pods or anything. I didn’t have my phone out. I was just eating some fajitas with the ambient sound of the restaurant.

It was a full, busy restaurant, but what was so alarming to me and, sadly, not surprising, was so many of the people in this restaurant were sitting face-to-face, but they were alone together, just immersed in their screens. I thought, “Man, here you are. You’re sharing a meal, breaking bread. You could be having all sorts of rich, honest, genuine conversation face-to-face, and you’re just completely alone together.”

I think that’s something we have to be mindful of. That’s not the sort of life any of us really want to live, but it seems to be the lives we are living.

Dave: So, you have an eight-year-old.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: When are you going to let them have a cell phone?

Jay: Jenny and I (my wife and I) talk about this a lot. We think middle school, but we’re pretty convinced that it will not be a smart phone. A friend of ours actually recommended the Apple watch for teenagers. It’s actually a great tool, because you can’t do social media on the watch, but you have access to everything else you really need. Mom and Dad can text you; you can call us. So, that’s kind of where we’re leaning right now.

Either that, or just an old flip phone, and she can download that game, Snake, that I used to play all the time on my old Nokia®. [Laughter]

Ann: And you want her to experience it?

Jay: Even back then, I was distracted just playing Snake on that little green screen with the black, but it was a different kind of distraction. We think we’ll probably do the Apple watch, so she can text and call but not have social media. That’s another thing we’re pretty adamant about, and I’m sure it’s going to turn into a big fight in our house.

There’s enough data that tells us putting social—I think, just my opinion—I think 30 years from now, we’ll look back, and we will look at what we’re doing right now, which is allowing 12-year-olds to get on social media, we’ll look back on that the way we would look back now as if we had put cigarettes in the hands of 12-year-olds 30 years ago.

Ann: For sure.

Jay: It’s literally killing a generation. So, for us, we’re not going to do social media. When she turns 18, it’s her own choice, but for now that’s kind of where we’re at.

Dave: She can figure it out.

Ann: You started the program talking about how you’ve learned to put your phone to bed.

Jay: Yes.

Ann: You dock it, and you go upstairs, go to sleep; and then you wake your phone up. You purposely come down, and you’re choosing when to have your phone on, instead of having it in your hand when you go to bed and when you wake up. Tell us the difference that that has made for you, because you said that you were pretty much present, but you weren’t present with your family and kids. Has it changed? What does it feel like now?

Jay: It changed everything.

Ann: Really?

Jay: Yes. Jenny and I have actual conversation before bed. [Laughter] Not just quippy little things, “Hey, look what I saw on Twitter.”

Dave: And you really weren’t doing that before?

Jay: We weren’t. No. We were both just scrolling, and occasionally we’d say, “Hey, look at this funny meme on Instagram.” That’s not real conversation.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Right.

Ann: So, she decided to do this as well. You both did.

Jay: Yes, and my wife took it a step further; before I started putting the phone to bed, before all of that, she got off of all social media about four years ago.

Dave: Still off?

Jay: Still off.

Dave: Really?

Jay: She’ll never go back.

Dave: How does she function? [Laughter]

Jay: I don’t know. I ask her that every day. How are you even alive without Twitter? [Laughter] How is this possible? Yes, she will never go back.

Dave: Really?

Jay: Yes.

Ann: Because—

Jay: She has no temptation. Several things: one, just time; the simplicity of—she realized; she says, “I did not realize how much time social media was stealing from me.” In fact, I would encourage everybody: just take inventory. Your phone can do it for you.

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Jay: It will tell you how much time you’re spending on your phone on various apps.

Ann: Oh, it’s so depressing!

Jay: If you never look at it, you should look at it, you know?

Ann: Yes.

Jay: Because it will give you a clear—and then, do some of the math. What does that look like over the course of a week, a month, a year, ten years?

Dave: Wow.

Jay: And you will be alarmed at how much of your life is stolen by this.

Dave: Does yours do what mine does? It lets me know how many hours on Sunday morning.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: Is that a thing? Because I’m always at church!

Ann: Yes.

Jay: Yes, I know.

Dave: And it’s convicting. I’m getting ready to preach, and—

Jay: It’s the Holy Spirit, “Dave, this week—”

Dave: “Can’t we do this tomorrow? Why right now?” It just reminds you, “This is not important! And look what you did this week.”

Jay: Yes.

Dave: I didn’t know it was Sunday morning for everybody.

Jay: I think you can change it, but, yes, for mine, it’s Sunday.

Dave: So, really, she stayed off?

Jay: She stayed off. She loves it. It’s not just the time either. She just feels way less anxious. There’s a lot of research that shows social media is designed to make you anxious, because it is the thing that keeps you coming back. It’s one of those sort of neurological triggers that will keep you coming back. “Did I get more likes? Did I get more likes? What’s happening in the world? If I don’t know, then that’s problematic.”

Dave: Yes.

Jay: So, it’s been a huge game changer for me every morning, because the phone is not the first thing for me. I just have a ritual. I pour myself a pour-over coffee, and I read a Psalm or a section of the Gospels, and then I’ll just drink that cup of coffee, continuing to read and meditate on God’s Word.

You know, there is all of that research that shows, if you do something for 21 straight days, it becomes sort of habitual, and that’s been true for me. It’s been habit-forming, so now, I feel abnormal if I can’t do that in the morning; and that’s where we want to get, you know?

Ann: That’s so good.

Jay: So, yes, it’s been a game changer. Those are just a few things, but there have been a lot more that have been really helpful for me.

Ann: We’ll talk about that some more tomorrow.

Dave: Yes. I was just thinking, if a married couple listening just did what you said—

if we did it, forget our listeners! [Laughter] If we did it, that’s a game changer for your marriage.

Jay: Yes.

Dave: And I’m guessing your daughter is not coming up to you anymore and saying, “Get off email.”

Jay: That’s right.

Dave: Because it’s not as prevalent as it was, right?

Jay: Yes, that’s exactly right.

Ann: I love it. I think that’s a great application.

Shelby: Super-helpful and relevant conversation today because last time I checked, almost all of us have a phone. I do, and I’m pretty sure you do, too. So, we need to hear conversations like the one we heard today.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jay Kim on FamilyLife Today. Jay has written a book called The Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. It’s really a must read for anyone who is exploring the intersection of technology and church; really helpful insights on the implications of the digital age for stuff like worship and discipleship.

So, you can go online to to get a copy. You can find the book in the show notes section at the bottom of the page, or you can just give us a call at 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”

Sometimes, when you talk about this subject—when it comes to technology—a lot of people can get very anxious about it. They think, “I’m doing the wrong things. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” or “Maybe my life isn’t where it’s supposed to be right now when it comes to technology.”

Earlier this week, we had on a really amazing guest, Elizabeth Woodson, who talked about finding joy when the life you have is not the life that you hoped for. She wrote a book called Embrace Your Life, and it really helps you understand the contentment that you can find in the gap between where you currently are and what you desire for your life to look like.

That book that Elizabeth wrote is going to be our gift to you when you give today at You can get your copy with any donation that you decide to give to FamilyLife. You can head online to and click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”

And you can feel free to drop us a donation in the mail if you’d like, too. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832.

So, how does your smart phone act as a mirror? Is it promoting self-despair by fostering an inward-focused perspective with you? Jay Kim is back again tomorrow with Dave and Ann Wilson to help us understand our smart phones. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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