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From the Desk of
Dr. Sheri Aspito 

Doing Education: Recess Edition
Published 9/22

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Cell Phone Usage and Adolescence


The most frequent reason parents give for the use of cell phones by young adolescence is security.  The ability of the parent to be able to access their child at a time when the child is entering the world of afterschool activities is comforting and, for most, considered a necessity. 


The child has a completely different rationale.  For the child the cell phone is the social center of his universe.  A cell phone gives 24/7 access to friends and friends of friends, and a smart phone allows facebook, twitter, instagram, and snapchat capabilities with a level of connectedness adolescence 15 years ago would never have imagined. 

Cell phones open the world to your child.  Unfortunately, they also open your child to the world.  Research shows that the adolescent brain is not fully formed and underdeveloped areas of the brain include the ability to plan ahead and impulse control (Gail, 2014).   Stir in normal teen insecurity, cyber-bullying, and sexual curiosity and the recipe for harmful interactions quickly begins to outweigh initial safety benefits.


Almost 34% of all teens admit they have been cyber bullied (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018).  Studies reveal that over half of all teens admit to sexting before the age of 18 (Holder, 2014). .   


With two such opposing views of cell phone usage, it is inevitable that parents and children will begin to conflict. 


It is critical to set some family standards for cell phone usage.  First, remind your child that the cell phone they are using belongs to you.  Children under the age of 18 cannot sign a cell phone contract.  Legally, the cell phone belongs to the parent, therefore, the parent should have full access to every area of the cell phone at any time.  Therefore, the child is not entitled to online or texting privacy on their phone. 


Secondly, children’s cell phone usage should be limited.  Consider placing a limit on children’s cell phone usage and place cell phones in a charging location outside of the children’s bedrooms at night.  Place strict boundaries on cell phone usage for yourself and your child during meal times. Chick fil-a recently started a program where all cell phones are placed in a box in the middle of the table during dinnertime.  Take advantage of all opportunities to communicate face to face without distractions with your child.  Finally, it is possible to block their online access and their texting access. Young adolescence should only be able to communicate with select family and friends.   If your child’s cell phone is not being used properly, speak with your cell phone provider.  It is possible to disconnect cell phone numbers for a period of time and reactivate the number later. 


Adolescence is a difficult time for parents and children.  Dr. Dobson often said that as parents it is our job to just help them make it through, so keep the lines of communication open by putting down your phone and doing activities with your child.  If your child is a freshman in high school, you only have the possibility of 1,185 dinners at home before you are dropping her off in a dorm room at college.  Use your time wisely. 





Resources for Parents



The teen brain:  still under construction


Teens and technology:  Managing cell phone usage


Internet safety information for teens:  getting it right


A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety


Most internet sex offenders aim at teens, not young children, study shows


Online with a sexual predator


Stop cyberbullying before it starts


Study finds most teens sext before they’re 18


The dangers of social media


Cyberbulling:  Identification, Prevention, and Response

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