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Before you buy your child that cellphone

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Smartphones shape our world today. It is hard to fathom what life would be like without one, but many risks come with our kids having smartphones. I used to be adamantly against children having smartphones, but they do have their benefits too. Smartphones make it easier to keep up with and track our children, know how fast they are traveling or driving. Settings can also keep them from operating their phones while driving.

But what are the risk? Cyberbullying, porn, sexting, loss of interpersonal communication and social skills, addiction. Many apps make it easy for predators to prey on children. Parents need to be informed about the risk of social media apps.

Excessive use has children withdrawing from family and genuine interpersonal relationships. Cellphones give us the great paradox of connecting with others more than ever while also being isolated from others more than ever. The addiction goes to show our need and natural appetite for relationships with others. Still, the more our children get caught up in their cellphones, the more distant they feel from this genuine interpersonal connection they desire. Is it a wonder depression and anxiety is an all-time high? Of course, correlation does not mean causation, but you would be hard-pressed to find a good argument on how cellphones benefit a child’s mental health and well-being. In fact, there are plenty of studies that go to show the use of cell phones increases the probability of low self-esteem.

Why might that be? When your teen grows dependent on positive feedback from likes and comments to pictures and social media, they feel good about themselves. They place their happiness on the positive affirmation that is immediately gratifying and intense, but it is also fickle −it comes and goes. When they do not get the proper feedback, they view their self-worth as something lacking. This view of happiness spills over or becomes habituated in other life areas where they primarily seek pleasure that is immediate, intense, and surface apparent and ego satisfying (which is not lasting, pervasive, or deep). (For more on true happiness visit my post on happiness). Instead, our children need to be assisted in making prudent decisions and taught the importance of temperance.

If their appetites are ordered by prudence and temperance, it can actually lead to the happiness they desire because the goods which their appetites are ordered to are real goods, and so they will take these real goods (e.g. interpersonal communion) with consideration to the universal good of their wellbeing and mental health as well as the universal good of others. That is the good they really desire and it is what will truly bring them fulfillment. As parents, we should do all we can to aid them in the fulfillment they desire in their relationships and other goods.

So what is a parent do?

First, establish some rules about having a phone. They must be reminded having a phone is a privilege and it can be lost if any of the rules are broken.

Rules to having a phone

· Parents create a password for phone and can access the phone at any time.

· No threatening or mean texts to others.

· No text or phone calls after a predetermined time.

· Phone must be charged at all times.

· Answer or respond promptly when parents call.

· Cell phones do not belong at dinner table or other family activities determined by parents.

· You must alert parents if you receive suspicious messages or calls including harassment from peers.

· No inappropriate pictures are to be taken or sent via text messaging.

There are also settings and apps to install on your child’s phone that restrict calls, screen time, and help with tracking. Below are videos for your help. I highly recommend them and use them with parents in therapy sessions. I will keep them updated for relevance. Take the time today and make your child’s phone safe. You’ll thank me later.

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