Giving your child a smartphone can be scary. The amount of questions and research that you have to do can be overwhelming. There’s also the problem of your child missing out on things when their heads are always down. That then rises the question of are cell phones hurting your kid’s childhood? Is it altering their reality? We sit down with cell phone expert, Tom Beiser, and asked him these questions and more.
Tom Beiser is a retired police detective with over 10 years experience in the field of cell phone forensics and cell phone records analysis. He holds certifications from Cellebrite. He is also a member of the U.S. Federal Electronic Crimes Task Force, the Communication Fraud Control Association (CFCA), and the Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA).
Are Cell Phones Hurting Kids’ Childhood?
TB: Yes. Kids rely on their cell phones to effectively communicate. There is no more face to face communication with others and its slowly diminishing their social skills. Additionally, it creates immediate gratification. Kids only have to say “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Google” or “Hey Alexa” and get their answer within seconds versus when kids had to pick up a book.
Do You Think Its Altering Their Reality?
TB: To an extent yes, because most influencers are only posting the good parts of their lives on online. So when kids only see the good parts, they being to compare their lives to what they see. This can result in feeling isolated, victimization of their own lives, and skewed perspective of reality. Social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat also have filters and Photoshop that completely change the user’s appearance. Your child is comparing themselves to something that isn’t even real which can result in self-destructive behaviors.
What Are Some of the Warning Signs I Should Be Looking For?
TB: Your child could be experiencing a multitude of positive and negative things while growing up and some of the negative could be coming from their cell phone. Cyber bullying, digital media anxiety, and skewed body image are some of the many things that kids are receptive to with their cell phone. Warning signs can include: withdrawn from interacting with friends and family, weight change or appearance, concerns from teachers or mentors, and/or a drop in grades.
Is Cell Phone Addition A Real Thing?
TB: Yes. Children who can’t put down their cell phones are missing out on the things around them. They are addicted to everything that is on that cell phone, all their social media apps and can spend most of their waking hours looking down at their phones. It also can effect adults as well so be sure you’re not teaching one thing and doing another.
Are Parents Part of the Problem?
TB: Parents can be part of the problem if they do not allot a certain amount of cell phone time, understand the warning signs, and don’t monitor the cell phone use. Adding in a Cell Phone Contract is key to being a solution the problem instead of being part of the problem. Parents should be aware of how much their child is on their phone to help combat with this growing and scary problem.
What Is A Digital Fast and Does It Work?
TB: Digital fast is when the cell phone is not at use for a set time agreed on between your child and you. It is a time when you and your family are not connected to your cell phones and must interact with one another. I believe it does work because it promotes more interaction with their families. Using the Downtime section of your iPhone helps to set a schedule for time away from the screen. During downtime, only apps that you choose to allow and phone calls will be available. This is found in the Setting section of your iPhone.
What’s The Right Time To Give A Child A Cell Phone?
TB: It all depends on the level of responsibility the child has and the need for it. If your child does an after school activity or has any kind of handicap, it might be necessary for them to have a cell phone sooner than later. At the end of the day, it is entirely up to you to decide the right time to give your child a cell phone.
Can Parents Reverse The Damage of Excessive Cell Phone Use?
TB: Yes. I think parents should first reduce the amount of screen time. They then need to teach their kids that cell phones are paid for by you and you can take them back at any time. Reversing the damage of excessive cell phone use is not impossible but it will take some will power and you’ll be met with resistance but it is possible.
What Are Some of the Physical Strains Does It Put On My Kid?
TB: Some of the physical strains that a cell phone can put on your child is numerous. It strains their neck and back as they hutch over to text and use their apps. Their eyes are also strained from the light of the phone even with the cooler and warmer settings that smartphones offer. Cell phones also hold a ton of germs so when your kid is at school and let their friends use their phone, they are exposed. The counterpart to this is to put down the cell phone.
What Does It Do To Their Social Skills?
TB: Social skills can be hindered immensly when it comes to your child and their cell phone use. Having good social skills are vital when it comes to the present and future of your kids. They need those social skills to do well in their work interviews, interact with co-workers, and have an overall respect for their peers. Being on their phones while someone is trying to speak to them will also hinder their social skills and come off rude. Teaching your kids how to interact with others not just through their cell phones will greatly improve their chances to excel in life.