There is hardly any parent nowadays who is not concerned about the impact of texting and cell phones on children. Indeed, today’s children spend too much time with their phones – playing games, watching online content, interacting with peers, searching information online, learning… All of these activities are definitely a contribution to normal development of children in intellectual and social domains, but is there a limit to what’s normal? Should parents establish any time limits and differentiate children’s activities with their phones for the sake of minimizing the harm of technology use by kids?
According to the latest calculations of the Pew Research Center, over 78% of teens aged between 12 and 17 years old have mobile phones and use them intensely. Contrary to the trend of the past decades – giving a cell phone to a child for parental control and comfort only – now children tend to use their phones for a variety of activities, most of which are conducted online. Moreover, statistics says that teenagers use the Internet on their mobile devices much more intensely than their parents do, and generally than adults. Whether it is bad or good – one can judge only by means of analyzing the application of mobile devices for educational activities versus entertainment. For each child, the combination is individual, and for some kids, phones function as a vital source of important educational information, while for others, they are only a distraction from studies and normal face-to-face communication.
Negative Impact of Texting and Phone Use
The discussion of negative effects of cell phone use on kids is very intense nowadays, as the harm has been detected in various domains of child health and development. First, excessive texting hampers children’s progress in development of grammar and spelling skills because of the use of contractions and emoticons much more than normal, correct written language.
Second, teens using their phones most of the time are more prone to getting into trouble – for instance, getting hit by a car or getting into a car accident while driving because of distraction by the phone. The use of phones is also hazardous in terms of psychological problems’ development; teens who stick to their phones and place them at the center of their social activity are more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, they develop fatigue much quicker, and they often suffer from sleep loss leading to easy irritation if it becomes chronic. It is also necessary to beware the criminals and bullies that inhabit the Web and prey for children and teenagers not knowledgeable about cyber-security; interactions with such online predators also contain a high risk of developing stress, depression, and anxiety, let alone a danger of physical abuse for the insecure child.
Finally, there is an entire complex of real physical problems developing in children and teens with a passion to texting. For instance, the recently emerging disease of teen tendonitis (TT) is characterized with abnormal changes in the arm joints and bones, pain in the hands and tissues, and other negative consequences of intense and unnatural use of fingers for texting. It is necessary for parents to keep in mind that a child’s organism is still developing, and texting is quite an unusual activity for a child’s hands. Hence, it is appropriate to limit time spent for texting to prevent TT onset.
Positive Effects of Child’s Use of Cell Phone
Though the risks and dangers described above are tangible and alarming, there is still hardly any possibility for a modern family to prevent their child’s having a smartphone or at least interacting with technology in some way. Even not buying a phone for a child is not a guarantee of his or her isolation from mobile devices – 95% of children come to school with a phone in hand, and this is true even for the 1st grade nowadays. Hence, you may hardly prevent the phone use totally. Then why be nervous about its possession? Let’s take a different perspective on the situation and consider advantages of phone use – there are some really important pros that every parent may appreciate:
- Your child is always connected. A kid having a phone will surely play some games and watch some YouTube content, which you might not like, but at the same time, he or she will have a chance to call you or 911 in case of any emergency, so it is a definite benefit of having a phone with a child – a basic safety precaution.
- Besides entertainment, children still use their phones to learn new things. That does not necessarily relate to conscious use of phones for education, but mostly relates to unconscious learning of new information from the Internet. Not all content is empty, many educational materials are available online, and there are high chances that your child will come across them while conducting Internet search.
- Your child will stay connected to teachers and students in class through online communication. This is often vital for finding out the homework, learning about extra-curricular events, and participating in overall social activity of the class.
- You kid will be properly entertained. Unfortunately, we all have to face the truth that entertainment is an integral part of our lives, and children also need it – even much more than adults. So, how can you entertain a child if you are at work most of the day, and at school, serious studies substitute entertainment? Definitely, your kids need some time for rest and relaxation, and sometimes it may be the content in their phones that gives them joy and happiness.
As you can see, phone use by children is a very ambiguous issue that has both pros and cons. The dangers of excessive phone use are evident, and children may develop a complex of physical and psychological problems if parents do not track their phone use. However, under the conditions of setting some clear boundaries and distinguishing the phone’s use for education and entertainment, kids may derive only benefits of technology use and avoid major risks and troubles associated with it.