So my title may have drawn you in as you think, “What in the world is this woman talking about?” Cell phones are great, right? We can stay in touch with people, we can use them in the case of an emergency, they help us get to where we need to be, and they entertain us… I could go on forever! I do agree that cell phones are great. I enjoy having mine and I use it often.
I’d like to give you a different perspective, though, about what I see on a daily basis and share with you how I’ve come to the conclusion that cell phones are seriously dangerous, especially for the young people in our lives. I spend 40 hours per week surrounded by teenagers (and lots of them!). I teach high school Spanish classes in a local school district and deal with teenagers and cell phones ALL the time. I have been teaching for seven years, and as each year goes by, I become more and more concerned about the effect that cell phones (or Ipads/technology) are having on our children.
When I tell my students that I didn’t get a cell phone until I was a senior in high school and that my husband didn’t have one until college, their mouths drop open in disbelief. While technology is relatively new for us “older” people… it is something that our kids have grown up with and is a very important part of their lives. Now, I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t use technology, but I AM asking that you, as a parent, listen to what I have to say, and seriously consider your child’s future when it comes to technology.
I going to make a bold move and say that for some teenagers, I would put cell phones on the same level as drugs. Cell phones and drugs have many similar side-effects in terms of behavior. Here is a list of behaviors that I have seen (this year alone):
- Addiction– if a teenager has been asked to put it away, they cannot and will refuse to do so. They literally cannot put their phone away, even in their backpack on the floor.
- Students cannot engage fully or be present in the moment. They are caught up in what is happening in their virtual world and miss 99% of what is actually going on around them (instructions, teaching, key information).
- Affects interpersonal (face to face) relationships. They lose “people” skills and do not know how to interact with people. These skills are needed to be a productive citizen and to obtain a job in the future.
- Loss of sleep. Technology and cell phones are keeping kids up late into the night. I have asked my students how much sleep they get at night many times over the past years and a majority of students are not getting the 8-10 hours of sleep they need. This greatly affects their ability to learn and be successful.
Not only do these behaviors frustrate me as I try to educate my students, but they also sadden and scare me. What will the future of our society be like if these are the people running it? They are missing out on the life that is happening right before their eyes. I don’t want it to sound like all of my students are like this, because that is not the case. There are a lot of VERY responsible young people that I interact with on a daily basis, but… there are quite a few who fit my description above.
I’d like to leave you with a list of things that I’d like you to consider, to help your child (even at a young age) not become of the ones that I described.
- Constantly remind your child what cell phones (technology) are useful for and what they are not useful for. If they have a conflict or concern with someone, they need to learn to speak with that person face to face.
- Remind them what they are missing in the present. If they are in school, limit access and teach responsible usage. Check in with teachers and see how your child is doing in school with their cell phone. If a teacher contacts you about phone usage, believe them! A teacher is not out to get your child in trouble, but to help them LEARN and children cannot learn if they are on their cell phone.
- Make your child put it away once in a while (especially at night). There is no reason a child needs their cell phone after 8-9 pm. They are losing sleep because they are on their phones. This is also a good practice to help them learn to be away from it. They need to learn to function without a cell phone. We all did it for most of, if not all of our teenage years and we turned out just fine.
- If you have little children at home, encourage interactive play and limit technology usage. Learning good habits from a young age is important.
- Lastly, be a GOOD example for your children. If you model good habits, it will be easier for you to enforce them with your children. Consider your own addiction to your phone. I believe that most of us are somewhat addicted to being on our phones. Try to be intentional with your own phone usage.
I’m not an expert; these are just my experiences, observations and serious concerns I’ve developed the past seven years. How do you deal with this issue in your home? What can we do, collectively, to ensure that our youth put down their phones and learn to engage with others and the moving world around them?