Today a teen wanted me to watch a helmet cam video of a motorcycle accident/death. I would not watch and told the young man it is not good for him to view such things either.
This is only one of many events which has led to my conclusion that young people should not possess a phone. Remember for a moment your school years; what did you do when your mind wandered from the lesson? I remember writing notes, whispering, and during one year a friend and I created elaborate mazes on paper to trade and solve. I’m not proud of my distraction but give details to point out how limited my options were. Now consider a child in school with a phone. At the very least they are able to text which means they can effectively “hang out” with all their friends rather than pay attention. Once a child has a phone with data or with wifi they add music, video, movies, games, enhanced social time, an infinite number of distractions with sophisticated media built to keep their attention. The average child under 18 is more vulnerable to distraction as well as exposure to people or materials they aren’t equipped to know how to handle.
For the sake of their development and future, young people should not have a phone until they work a steady job and can afford to pay for it on their own (optimally 17 or 18 at the earliest). Consider also health statistics for children. Sedentary lifestyles have made 31% of 10-17 year olds overweight or obese. If you note posture of many teens, they have a hunched back and neck enough to look osteoporotic when sitting. Often in school a percentage of students have had inadequate sleep from media exposure and are not able to stay awake during class. I further believe it is unhealthy for developing bodies to have extended exposure to cellular waves. The zombie apocalypse is real; instead of flesh eaters we have phone zombies.
Even with filtering and monitoring, young people can easily get access and be exposed to inappropriate, explicit, or dangerous content. Through video, games, and music they are bombarded with words and images and can be desensitized. As mentioned in my intro, this teen had a perverse interest in sharing what I can only imagine was a truly disturbing video. I honestly don’t know if he knew how to handle the images and wanted to show it, in part, to seek others reactions. I don’t know the psychological long term effects of so much unfiltered exposure but it can’t be healthy. Humans are naturally curious but for some the curiosity can become obsession/addiction.
The last reason young people shouldn’t have a phone (smart or other) is need. As a society we have become comfortable with being able to reach anyone any time but when a young person’s “job” is to be in school to learn there is no need for a phone. If parents must reach their child during the day, the office staff in a school is well equipped.
There are, of course, many positives for possessing a smart device. My estimation from professional experience with young people is that fewer than 25% of 14-18 year olds have the maturity and ability to delay gratification in order to use a smart phone wisely. Until this year my approach has been that young people need to have access so they can learn the responsibility. This approach is flawed, teens need better “training wheels” to advance to mature utilization. Smart phones can have as many or more unexpected outcomes as learning to drive and can be abused like drinking or drugs so parents need to take on the responsibility of teaching their child and limiting use.