All throughout history, our advancements have also brought unintended side effects. And while the side effects rarely outweigh the benefits (for example, I’m not about to quit eating pizza simply because of the side effect of heart burn!), it’s important to recognize that there is a downside to many of the luxuries and advances of our culture.
And the cell phone (specifically the smart phone) is no different.
When you put a smart phone in the hands of your child or teenager, you are giving them a pocket-sized computer that allows 24/7 access to a world of information, entertainment and temptation that you and I NEVER experienced at their age. And while there is much to celebrate about this amazing technology, it’s important for parents to be aware of some of the unintended consequences. Here are a few such examples:
- Teenager addiction to their smart phones seems to be a real thing. Experts have split opinions on whether a traditionally-defined addiction is possible, but the debate is alive and well. Wanna do some research of your own? Try asking your teenager to take a three-day break from their device.
- Increase in teenage anxiety and depression is widely considered to be a direct result of smart phone “addiction”. The never-ending barrage of social media is proving to be a primary source of anxiety and depression among teenagers according to many studies.
- Access to pornography and other inappropriate content. The average age a young person is exposed to pornography is widely believed to be around age 10 (nobody knows for certain).
- A “tether” to mom or dad. Obviously there are LOTS of benefits to a parent’s ability to be in constant contact with their child, but for parents who struggle with over-parenting, worry, etc. their child’s cell phone may actually be harming some of the natural developmental process in their children.
So, what’s a parent to do? Here are three simple ideas to help you and your child survive the smart phone!
To put it bluntly, you simply can’t afford to bury your head in the sand! Pay attention to how often your child’s face is buried in their device. Notice if the use of their cell phone begins to affect their behavior. If they can’t live without it, perhaps they shouldn’t be living with it.
PUT SOME SAFETY MEASURES IN PLACE:
You can’t protect them from every temptation and struggle a smart phone provides, but you CAN put some safety measures in place. Some ideas:
- enable the parental controls and filters included on the phone.
- download apps etc. that allow you to see what they are seeing.
- let them know that you will occasionally ask to see their phone to check history, etc.
- create a family rule that cell phones stay in the kitchen at bed time.
- create the ritual of “cell phone Sabbath” where breaks are taken on a regular basis for anywhere from an hour to an entire day.
CREATE AN “APP APPLICATION” PROCESS
- limit the number of apps allowed on the phone at any given time. If a new one is added, an old one needs to be removed.
- Before a new app is added, parental approval of the app must be given.
Smart phones…because we know we can’t live without them, we need to take measures to help our children safely and wisely live with them!
For more thoughts on how to tame the cell phone beast, here.