Rethinking the Decision: Why Your Child or Young Teen Shouldn’t Have a Smartphone?

phone addiction

Let’s face it, every other parent has encountered the challenging dilemma of what to do when their young child or teen insists on having a smartphone. Whether it’s to connect with friends, text someone special, or collaborate on a school project, the allure of smartphones can be strong for young minds. Emily Cherkin, a prominent screen time expert based in the US, recently shed light on the multitude of dangers associated with children using smartphones at an early age in an article featured on the website of National Public Radio (NPR), a well-known Washington-based media outlet. However, smartphones lure everyone promising instant access to information, communication, and entertainment, making them seem indispensable. Emily insights hold relevance not just for the US parents but also from others in the far East as well. Here, we will explore the reasons why you should reconsider giving your child or young teen a smartphone.

Health Concerns

Excessive smartphone use can lead to various health issues, especially in young individuals whose bodies and brains are still developing. Prolonged screen time has been linked to sleep disturbances, eye strain, and even musculoskeletal problems. Additionally, extensive smartphone use has been associated with adverse effects on mental health, including anxiety, depression, and decreased attention spans.

A meta-analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics examined the association between screen time and symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. The study found a significant correlation, suggesting that excessive smartphone use might contribute to mental health issues. Another study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science highlighted that excessive smartphone use can contribute to musculoskeletal problems, including neck pain, shoulder pain, and hand/wrist discomfort in adolescents.

Social Development

Smartphones can hinder the development of essential social skills in children and young teens. Excessive use of smartphones can lead to reduced face-to-face interactions, making it difficult for them to develop effective communication and empathy skills, which are crucial for building relationships and navigating social situations.

A study published in this Journal of Social and Personal Relationships reported that excessive use of smartphones and social media can lead to feelings of social isolation and loneliness among adolescents. Reduced face-to-face interactions can hinder the development of strong social bonds and supportive relationships.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

The online world can be a hostile environment, and young individuals may lack the emotional maturity to deal with cyberbullying or online harassment. Providing them with a smartphone opens up the possibility of encountering harmful content or becoming targets of such negative behavior, which can have severe consequences on their self-esteem and mental well-being.

The Pew Research Center conducted a comprehensive study in 2021 to examine how teenagers in the United States experience cyberbullying and online harassment. The study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,055 U.S. teens aged 13 to 17. According to the study, 59% of U.S. teens reported experiencing some form of cyberbullying or online harassment. This includes receiving hurtful, threatening, or offensive messages, rumors, or negative comments about themselves through various digital platforms.

Digital Addiction

Smartphones can be highly addictive, especially for children and young teens who may lack the self-discipline to manage their usage. Excessive screen time can lead to a dependence on digital devices, affecting their academic performance, family relationships, and overall productivity.

Inappropriate Content

The internet contains a vast amount of content, not all of which is suitable for young audiences. Even with parental controls and filters, it is challenging to entirely shield children from stumbling upon inappropriate material. Exposure to such content can have lasting negative impacts on their emotional development and perceptions of the world.

Privacy and Security Concerns

Children and young teens may not fully grasp the importance of privacy and the potential risks associated with sharing personal information online. Giving them access to smartphones increases the likelihood of unintentionally sharing sensitive data, making them vulnerable to online predators or identity theft.

Academic Performance

Smartphones can be major distractions in a child’s academic life. With access to social media, games, and other entertainment apps, it becomes easy for them to lose focus on their studies and fall behind academically.

Physical Safety

Owning a smartphone exposes children and young teens to potential physical dangers. If not used responsibly, smartphones can distract them while walking, cycling, or driving, increasing the risk of accidents. Moreover, it might make them more susceptible to theft or robbery if they are not cautious.

Financial Implications

Smartphones can be expensive, and providing one to a child or young teen may lead to unnecessary financial burdens. Additionally, children may not fully appreciate the value of the device, leading to carelessness and potential damage.

Parental Disconnection

When children and young teens have unrestricted access to smartphones, they may become more engrossed in their virtual worlds, reducing the quality of family time and communication. Over-reliance on smartphones can erode parent-child relationships and hinder the establishment of strong bonds.

Wrapping up 

While smartphones undeniably offer numerous benefits and conveniences, they may not be suitable for children or young teenagers. The potential health, social, and psychological risks outweigh the advantages, especially considering their developing minds and emotional vulnerability. Instead of providing unrestricted access to smartphones, parents can encourage alternate activities like outdoor play, reading, sports, or creative hobbies that foster healthy development and well-rounded individuals.

 Mohd. Ziyaullah Khan is based in Nagpur and works with a leading digital marketing company in the city as the Content Head. He is also an activist and social entrepreneur, co-founder of the group Young Transformers, which conducts exclusive programs for children and young people.

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