“Parents’ Dilemma: When to Give Children Smartphones”

“The battle for the attention of America’s children pits parents against some of the world’s most advanced companies. It is a fight as lopsided as it sounds’

  • “It feels a little like trying to teach your kid how to use cocaine, but in a balanced way.”
  • Nearly 75% of teenagers had access to smartphones, concluded a 2015 study by Pew Research Center—unlocking the devices about 95 times a day on average, according to research firm Verto Analytics.
  • Tech companies are working to instill viewing habits earlier than ever. The number of users of YouTube Kids is soaring. Facebook recently launched Messenger Kids, a messaging app for children as young as 6.
  • Tina Shepardson, a sixth-grade teacher in Syracuse, N.Y., said the attention span of students has shrunk in the years smartphone habits have grown. She saw it at home with her daughter, Payton, 15.
  • The goal of Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Snap Inc. and their peers is to create or host captivating experiences that keep users glued to their screens, whether for Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or Facebook. A child can understand the business model: The more screen time, the more revenue.
  • Children set up Instagram accounts under pseudonyms that friends but not parents recognize. Some teens keep several of these so-called Finsta accounts without their parents knowing.
  • Ms. Braun planned to teach her daughters to use their iPhones gradually, with a short contact list and a few apps. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah. We’ve got this. It’s fine,’” she said. “Well, it’s not fine.” (They are only 9 and 11. It’s not too late. Take away their phones!)
  • “I have no idea how much inappropriate stuff they watch,” Allison Dady said of her sons, Reed, 18, a high-school senior, and Lane, 15, a freshman. Each boy received a smart phone in sixth grade.
  • Ms. Dady, a real-estate agent in Austin, took a tough stand against nighttime use. Once, after she caught Reed sneaking into her room to retrieve his device from her night stand, she slept with it under her pillow for two weeks.
  • “I go back and forth,” Ms. Dady said. “I worry about it, and then I think that I’ve let it go on so long, can I really do anything about it now?” (Yes, you can!)
  • An app called Secret Calculator looks and works like an iPhone calculator but doubles as a private vault to hide files, photos and videos. For homework, point an iPhone camera at an algebra problem and Photomath solves it.
  • Serious troubles also loom: from the exchange of sexually explicit photographs or messages—which Dr. Heitner called modern-day flirting—to what the American Psychiatric Association calls “Internet Gaming Disorder” among gamers unable to pull away from their screens.
  • Felice Ahn, 43, of Palo Alto, doesn’t plan to give smartphones to her daughters, ages 9 and 10, even when they reach high school, an unusual restriction in this affluent corner of Silicon Valley.
  • Ms. Ahn and her husband listen to music and podcasts on their smartphones, but they worry the devices might hobble their daughters’ development or create unnecessary social pressures. Instead, Ms. Ahn got the girls LG GizmoGadget watches, which allow calls with a few family members.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 7.18.04 AMScreen Shot 2018-01-15 at 7.29.03 AM

“For now, she said, “I don’t care what the other moms think of me. We’re happy to be different.” (This is a picture of them from the article.)

I applaud this last mother’s choice. However,  her children are still young and obedient. Social pressure is going to come barreling down the tracks soon. Our 17-year-old does not have a smart phone right now. He has an old flip phone. It’s embarrassing to him and if you send emojis or any punctuation marks to him in a text, the text doesn’t go through. He has accepted it for now. We have also re-installed a land line in our home where he can be reached.

This is really a Deep River Parenting issue. It is not about controlling your child, but protecting them. Who are the parents? What is the best for your children? How can you limit their time? We had our kids all wait until they were 14 to get a phone but it was easier a few years ago to do that. They also had to earn their phone and have their own plan to teach them how to pay bills, because I  didn’t want to collect money from them for a family plan.  I had  tried the bill collecting route  and some were good about paying and some weren’t.

What worries me is all of the secret accounts and apps that we don’t know about or can’t monitor — a few are mentioned in the above article. The above article also had a graph on bullying. I read a newspaper article in 2017 about a 13-year-old that had killed herself, partly because of all the texts she was getting urging her to kill herself. I have also included the link for that because it highlights how crazy the world can be and how necessary it is to be aware of the danger and destructiveness of smart phones.

My vote is to have a landline in your house until your child is 14 or in high school and then I still wouldn’t give them a smart phone, just a flip phone.

Here is a  worthy comment at the end of the WSJ article from one reader whose name is Ellen Cotton:

“I’m continually perplexed that grown, mature adults (parents) would think that giving a child (and teen) a powerful device like a smartphone wouldn’t bring lots of problems to the child, and to the family. It always does, 100% of the time. It’s like giving a 16 year old a Mustang for their first car…they go to driver’s ed, learn the rules, and you hand over the keys assuming they can handle the power and responsibility of a sports car at 16. They can’t!  And I don’t know any kid that needs a sports car, or a high-powered pocket computer in their hands 24/7!  My point is that smartphones will change your child. It changes what they do, how they spend their time, their interests, what they see (adult and inappropriate content constantly), who they hang out with, it isolates them from family, they interact with strangers, they cheat and hide things, see porn (lots of porn and when they are very young).  Why are adults throwing their kids into an adult world and expecting good results?’ She continues:

“(Part 2) Not one parent I know really knows what their child is doing online, because it’s impossible to know. It’s an impossible job. Start with an appropriate phone (flip or trac, text only phone).  Let your child be a child for a bit longer, the smartphone will mess them up, and changes your relationship with them.  They are not mature enough to handle it, and shouldn’t have to be. Why are parents throwing their kids into adult situations and expecting mature, adult outcomes?  This is not rocket science folks!  A child can wait and get a smartphone when they are in high school or older.  They are so user friendly, that getting them one when they are 10 does not give them a tech advantage when they’re older, actually the opposite it true. Yes, they will have a smartphone one day, just not when they’re a kid. Parents, stay strong and say NO!  We did it with our 4 kids and it is possible. Check out http://www.familiesmanagingmedia.com for great support and advice on this subject.’ She continues:

“A smartphone is not a TV or telephone, it’s an addictive device (toy) carried around with them 24/7; to school, on bus, car, dinner, bed, doc office, practice, store, class, friend’s house, etc.. They NEVER get a break from it. Is spending 9 hours a day on a device now considered normal behavior? This grand experiment will go wrong. When did it become the norm to buy kids these powerful devices without ever considering the negative impact on them? They are addictive because they result in the constant drip of dopamine in a developing mind. The time wasted on these devices has a cost, what are they not doing?  Reading books, doing homework, hanging out with friends/family in person, talking, learning a hobby/musical instrument/foreign language, getting exercise/playing a sport, working a job. Kids are not using them responsibly, and they are not learning critical life skills on a smartphone. No child has been harmed by not having a smartphone, the opposite cannot be said.’

The website this reader, Ellen Cotton, referenced is brilliant! (www.familiesmanagingmedia.com) I went on and read a few articles. It will support you in your desire to rein in your children’s smart phones. Here is a thoughtful article by Melinda Gates about delaying smartphones for her children:


Realize that you are still the parents! Be aware and watchful. Don’t give in to unlimited smart phone use like some of the parents highlighted in the article. Please leave a comment if something you have done works to set boundaries around your children’s phones.



One thought on ““Parents’ Dilemma: When to Give Children Smartphones”

  1. Pingback: “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley” – "Peace Like A River…"

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