Is your daughter obsessed with her smartphone?

The following questions are based on 5 years of experience talking with parents, physicians, and counselors across the country who work specifically with teenagers with smartphone obsession/addiction.

  1. Does your teen spend more than 2 hours a day on her phone?
  2. Do you argue, make deals, and negotiate with your teen over phone use and time allowance?
  3. Does your teen have private passwords? (they don’t share passwords with you)
  4. Does your teen have apps that you don’t know about?
  5. Has your teen ever lied to you about smartphone content i.e. social media sites, apps or people she is following?
  6. Does your teen demand privacy on her texts and social media?
  7. Has she ever gone around your parental controls?
  8. Does she show signs of depression, anxiety, isolation and decreased self confidence?
  9. Does she take her phone to bed with her at night?
  10. Can your teen tell you how she knows every person that she is following and who is following her?

If you answered YES to at least 1 of these questions, you need to investigate the problem further.

Smartphones?  Text Phones?   No Phone?

When is the right time… or What is the right age… to get my child a phone? If there is one we thing we do know, its that children and teens should never own a smartphone. We know your teen is begging for it (because ours is too), they have a birthday coming up, all of her friends have one and you and she both assume that she has a ‘right’ to one, even though she is in 6th grade.

Don’t let the convenience for you to find your daughter after practice trump the problem solving experience and trusting that you will be there. Allow her to find a phone (I’m sure the coach has one she can borrow) to call you in case of emergency. That’s how we all did it, and survived, and learned resilience in the process.

If you absolutely need her to have a phone (and there are many good reasons) a voice and text-only flip phone is a great option. Even for your new student driver, the constant ping from a phone is a huge temptation and you want to set them up for success.

Here are a few questions for you to ask yourself before you give your child your old iPhone and add that new account to your cell phone plan.

1. Trust your common sense.  No school age child needs a phone (they don’t need to call you by your first name or drink coffee either…just sayin…  )

2. Don’t let culture guide you. Culture does not have your child’s best interest in mind.

3. Always start with a text only phone before you hand them a smartphone. A good rule of thumb in any parenting decision is to start slow and work your way up.

4. Is your child responsible?  Let me add to this question: Do they:

  • make their bed every morning independently?
  • make their own lunch every day for school?
  • brush their teeth consistently without being told?
  • consistently do homework on their own? Are you still checking it over?
  • take pride in keeping her room in order? Not perfect but organized?
  • easily find his shoes, homework and library book on school days?
  • feed the animals without being reminded every day?
  • treat others with respect and do not gossip or put others down?
  • fully and responsibility understand the ‘birds and the bees, sexually-transmitted diseases, social media laws and porn issues?
  • have a phone already? Are you charging it at night? Have they ever lost it? More than once?

Use your common sense, don’t let culture guide you.  If you are still reminding your child to brush his teeth they are too young for a cell phone. If she is sassy and talks back she is too young for a phone.  A child should have developed levels of responsibility in other areas of their life before they are handed a phone.  Many parents hand over these mini pocket computers to their kids not realizing the full potential of short and long term damage they can bring to your child.  It is a ticking time bomb in many cases exposing them to things way out of their emotional understanding.  Chances are they are not old enough to manage it on their own so don’t put that burden on their little shoulders yet. The time will quickly come when they are driving or have a job when you can help them make good cell phone decisions, but for now let them enjoy a phone free life while they are building a rich childhood foundation and growing responsible character qualities in their lives. Go here for more information on how to write a cell phone strategy for your home.

Dare to be culturally different and rethink the real purpose of the smartphone being part of your child’s life, you may realize that they don’t need it after all. Phones can cause a lot of problems in a child’s/teen’s life; they are a big responsibility and they are stressful. Do some research and trust your instincts and realize that a delay may be the best decision for now. Imagine the freedom and peace in your home if you didn’t have to worry about the stress a smartphone causes and let your child or teen truly enjoy being a kid; put the phone on hold and save it for later!

Does your teen already have a smartphone and you aren’t taking it away? If you choose to give your child a phone you can consider staying on top of their activity by setting up a service with your phone provider to monitor usage and content. Many parents have also found that simply disabling the internet on the phone makes perfect sense and relieves many problems. Their child can still text but their ability to stumble on dark content is diminished.

If your child has a phone, remember that you are responsible for the content that they and others see on the phone. There is no debate, the magic of face-to-face interaction of a caring person will never be replaced with a handheld screen. Give your kids just a few more years to enjoy the gift of real conversation, they will have the rest of their lives to replace it with smartphones. For more information on kids’ brains and phones and tips for limiting or eliminating teen phone problems come to our next workshop!