As a clinical psychologist, I am frequently asked by parents if I think it’s a good idea for their child to have a cell phone. Although there can be potential problems with some children having a cell phone, there are distinct advantages too.
1. Cell phones are essential for emergencies. They can be used to call police, parents, friends, and loved ones. They have been used to prevent, rapes, murders, and abductions. They are a must for teenage drivers if they get lost, have an accident or run out of gas. Teenage girls can call their parents or a friend if a date gets too aggressive, or they get stranded.
2. Knowing where your child is In addition to be able to call each other is also important. Most parents today have the location ap or “find my phone” ap, so they will know where their children are at all times. Obviously, the child has to have the phone with them for this to be effective. But it is also a valuable feature.
3. Maintaining important connections! Children now have the ability to stay connected with friends and loved one 24/7. This can be especially useful if parents are divorced or separated. The child potentially could have easy access to both parents, even if one lived far away. Several years ago, parents of a 5 year old with separation anxiety wanted to go on a desperately needed needed weekend getaway. But their little boy would have such severe tantrums, they were inhibited to leave. Fortunately the new technology, Skype allowed them to go on the vacation and their child was able to see their faces, dramatically reducing his fears and insecurity. Most phones today are equipped with Face Time or the equivalent.
4. Learning new technology is important. Children are able to use and operate the newest technology that the cell phone brings. Many children, especially teens have a much better knowledge and technical ability than their parents do. Many experts agree that children have better nonverbal intelligence because of the technology now available to them, largely brought to them by the smart phone.
5. The GPS that are now standard on smartphones are also invaluable, especially for new drivers. No longer do drivers have to be worried about getting lost while driving. This should reduce anxiety and distraction for most of us, and our children. Of course, some cars are already equipped with a GPS, but not many older model cars. Furthermore the GPS on a phone can help children when they are on foot or bike as well.
1. Many children become preoccupied or obsessive with their phones (and other technologies like computers, laptops, iPads and video game consuls) ignoring other activities that are important in their development. Exercise, studying, and socializing (face to face) can take a back seat to the cellphone. It isn’t uncommon when in a restaurant to see children of all ages glued to their phones texting or playing video games, avoiding contact with their family. Sadly, the parents are often doing this as well.
2. It is dangerous for most new teenage drivers to be on the phone while driving. Although the new technology allows people to talk and text hands free while driving, it is a good idea to ask your teenage drivers to not use the phone while driving, except the GPS of course.
3. Children are more likely to view porn or adult content than ever before. This has become a growing concern, and many parents are able to block the adult rated content on their children’s cellphones, laptops, and computers.
4. Pedofiles (AKA child molesters) are more able to lure in and abduct and abuse children through social media. Parents should have restrictions regarding their children’s use of social media. Many parents, especially of younger children disallow it altogether.
5. Bullying is another problem that can occur through social media, text messaging, and phone calls. Parents should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate precautions by either disallowing social media, and encouraging their children to be discrete with whom they give their number to.
In conclusion, cell phones can provide added security for our children, providing them with new learning and allowing them to stay connected with important people in their lives. They are also essential for emergencies, new learning, and socialization.
However, parents need to be aware of the potential perils of children owning cell phones and set appropriate limits. Most communities, police departments and schools offer free educational seminars for parents regarding these issues. Most important, parents need to know their children. Not all children will abuse the privilege of owning a cell phone. Others will. It is essential for parents to have an awareness and understanding or “love map” of their child. It isn’t uncommon for teens to become estranged from their parents. Oftentimes the parents don’t have a clue that their child feels unseen and unloved. Nor are they aware of the magnitude of their children’s issues. As a psychologist I’m able to emotionally reconnect children with their parents. This experiences is truly rewarding and makes me love my career. If you suspect that your child has become estranged from you, then you might consider in-listing the help of a psycholgist or counselor.
Dr Steve Rockman is a licensed psychologist in private practice with over 40 years of experience. He has offices in Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel.