John Rosemond: Realities of adolescents and smartphones | Family and relationships
A Californian mother asks her pastor for advice on allowing her 15-year-old son to have a smartphone. The boy claims that if he can’t use social media, he won’t have friends. Mom is skeptical of this claim and is afraid of other internet experiences the youngster might be drawn to if he has a smartphone.
The pastor tells mom that her son needs to learn to navigate the realities of the internet and use a smartphone responsibly before he leaves for college. Three years! The end of the world clock is ticking!
“Help me here,” mom asks me.
With all due respect to the pastor, here is the short list of “realities” about smartphones and teens:
FACT: Teenage smartphone use coincides with a dramatic increase in adolescent mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
FACT: The addictive element of smartphone use has been verified by several researchers and supported by a preponderance of anecdotal evidence.
REALITY: Teens have been known to use smartphones and other screen devices to access pornography.
FACT: Teens quickly learn to bypass smartphone controls set up by their parents. Don’t kid yourself.
FACT: Teenage girls often use social media to build alternate identities and personal soap operas that are destructive for proper socialization and adjustment.
FACT: There is no convincing evidence that teens without a smartphone are at any risk – socially, emotionally, cognitively. In fact, the phrase “responsible adolescent use of smartphones” is not an oxymoron just because a small minority of adolescents use smartphones in a totally responsible manner. Repeat, a small minority.
REALITY: I personally know teenagers who don’t have smartphones or tablets. Said teenagers are, without exception, kind, well adjusted, happy and have a lot of friends. In short, they are normal. The idea that an otherwise well-adjusted teenager won’t have friends if he doesn’t have a smartphone is propaganda.
REALITY: A lot of the teenagers I’ve met who have smartphones don’t act like normal human beings. They don’t converse, for example. They mumble. They don’t look people in the eye. They have their smartphones in their hands almost at all times as if they were part of their body. While we try to engage them in a conversation, they steal glances at their devices and even text messages.
REALITY: Over the past 10 years, hundreds of parents have shared horror stories of well-adjusted, trustworthy children who, around a year after getting a smartphone, were no longer trustworthy and, in many cases, had developed significant mental health and behavior problems.
Think you can roll the dice and roll your snake eyes? Good luck to you.