Almost all of us can appreciate the convenience that cell phones have brought to our lives. and even more so now that these have become “Smart Phones” which allow us to tie into the wide world of the internet. They are nothing short of miniature computers, some having capabilities found only in large desk tops but a few years ago. It is no wonder that every teenager wants to have his or her smart phone. The problem is that with such power and availability teenagers are exposed as never before to the risks imposed by unlimited access to the internet.
Most parents are aware of some of the risks associated with the internet not the least of which is access to virtually unlimited porn and to those who would try to seduce our children into their warped purposes. At least with computers in the home, parents can exercise some level of control and protection by ensuring that internet access is done in open or public setting. Once you give a child, a smart phone, you have lost a good amount of that protection. While there are programs to block certain content, our teenagers are very efficient at finding ways to get around these restrictions.
There is also the relatively recent practice of sexting in which immature teenagers are encouraged to reveal themselves sexually often posting nude pictures or worse. Despite being told of the dangers of such actions, many teenagers are too immature to fully appreciate the harm that they are doing to themselves. Now there is the practice of some teens and some adults of sextortion – threatening to release or otherwise use the sexting to harm the sender. Sometime this is for money sometime for other things.
There are two other dangers for teenagers with the smart phone — texting while driving, which according to the experts is done by three out of every five teenage drivers, and the effect that prolonged screen time has on teens. Studies show that when screen time exceeds an hour a day, that the level of teen depression and sadness grows greatly as time increases and smart phones are one of the biggest sources of such viewing.
What then is a parent to do? First realize the potential not only for good but for bad with smart phones. Second, do not start your children using smart phones too early.
If there is a need for the child to have a phone for emergencies a simple dumb flip phone is adequate and a lot safer. Children will tell you that all their friends have smart phones. You will need to be the parent and resist the peer pressure.
If you do give your child a smart phone, be sure that you discuss the risks with them, not just once, but from time to time and let them know that at least occasionally you will be checking their phone to see how they are using it.
Smart phones are only as smart as the people using them.