Dangers Every Parent Should Know Before Giving Their Student A Smartphone (2022)

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December 21, 2020

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Are smartphones safe for students?

People can easily get addicted to phones, especially children who have less impulse control. In fact, engineers have purposely designed many apps to become addicting.

Pew researchers found:

  • 95% of teens now have access to a smartphone (they own one, or use their parents’ or friends’)
  • 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”
  • 65% of parents are worried about their kid’s screen time

Some experts warn smartphones can negatively impact tween’s and teen’s mental health, including:

  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • sleep issues
  • even suicide

Smartphone use can also make students susceptible to:

  • online bullying
  • online predators
  • screen time addiction
  • lack of motivation for offline activities

When should my kid get a smartphone?

Parents should decide WHEN. Here are suggestions from the SmartSocial.com Team:

Ages 0-10 - No phone

Age 10 - Sign a family cell phone safety agreement

Ages 10-13 - Non-smartphone (a device that lets you text/SMS and make phone calls)

Age 14 - Smartphone (without social media apps installed)

Age 15 - Smartphone (with parent-approved social media apps installed)

What we discuss in this course

  • What are the options I have? We will share with you three safe phone options
  • At what age should I give my student his or her first phone?
  • Learn why Apple's parental controls are a MUST HAVE for any family with iPhones
  • Learn how predators contact students on phones (and what you can do to minimize this)
  • Learn how app developers are making your student become addicted to their phones (and each app)
  • Learn ways to talk with your student to help them better understand and regulate their screen time

Find out all of the dangers your students might encounter when they get a new phone (bullying, safety, predators, addiction, porn, social anxiety, etc).

Login or join theSmartSocial.com membership to read more about the dangers and safety tips.

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Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ app reviews at SmartSocial.com

This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

Many students want smartphones and might even feel peer pressure to own one. But smartphones are powerful devices that give students access to the entire world by way of the internet and popular photo, video, and communication apps. Smartphones have the potential to enrich a student's life, but they can also pose some serious risks.

Overview video for parents

Are smartphones safe for students?

People can easily get addicted to phones, especially children who have less impulse control. In fact, engineers have purposely designed many apps to become addicting.

Pew researchers found:

  • 95% of teens now have access to a smartphone (they own one, or use their parents’ or friends’)
  • 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”
  • 65% of parents are worried about their kid’s screentime

Some experts warn smartphones can negatively impact tween’s and teen’s mental health, including:

  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • sleep issues
  • even suicide

Smartphone use can also make students susceptible to:

  • online bullying
  • online predators
  • screen time addiction
  • lack of motivation for offline activities

Some researchers now consider smartphone use a "public health crisis"

FastCompany headline: Public health crisis: 25% of youth addicted to phones, often with mental health problems
Researchers put out an SOS call about youth and smartphone use: the largest study of its kind shows that one in four display phone-addiction behavior. ‘Problematic smartphone use poses a different and arguably much bigger public health problem than substance abuse or even internet gaming’ write the authors. Fast Company

Do parental controls work?

Sure there are many parental control programs available, but students have ways to outsmart many of them. Tweens and teens can easily find videos on YouTube to teach them how to get around the blocks set by adults. If you are looking for parental control software, here are Smart Social’s recommendations.

Parent training video

Student interview video

How bad content impacts students

Josh Ochs talks with students about content they view and how they compartmentalize what's positive and negative. The content students view that isn't positive can easily become normal even though it's not always age appropriate content. Students talk about the desensitizing nature of this content and how it's important to limit the amount of this content exposure.

Your student's first phone CAN hurt their online footprint

Yes! Your student should know that nothing they put online is ever really private. Negative posts could impact their chances of getting into college or landing a future job. Just look at what happened to ten students who had their offers to Harvard rescinded after administrators discovered offensive posts in a private, online Facebook messaging group.

If used in a positive way, social media can also help enhance a student’s digital footprint. Here are 20 Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly.

SmartSocial recommends a Gabb Wireless phone

We partnered with Gabb Wireless to bring you a special offer. With our partnership link, you will usually save money (compared to the normal price), and if you purchase with our link, you are supporting SmartSocial.com.

(Promo Code: SMARTSOCIAL)

This device looks like a smartphone but is specifically designed for tweens and teens. It will not let users access the internet, online games, social media, the App Store, or Google Play. 

As an added bonus, SmartSocial.com readers get an extra $10 off a Gabb Wireless phone by using this link.

Gabb Wireless has all of the features your child needs from a phone including:

  • calling
  • texting
  • calendar
  • alarm
  • calculator
  • camera

"We are thrilled to deliver the first-ever phones and service that give kids mature-looking devices with all the talk and text they want, while also giving parents the peace of mind that their child will not be exposed to harmful or unwanted content," said Gabb Founder and CEO Stephen Dalby. "It helps parents manage their children's exposure to technology in a way that is safe and meets each family's unique needs."

Gabb phones operate on a proprietary network and cannot be added to a current cell phone plan. Monthly plans start at $19.99/month and are "pay-as-you-go," with no long-term contracts required.

PopSugar headline: A No-internet, just-for-kids cell phone is here, and it's every parent's dream
The best part? Your kids can communicate [on Gabb] with their loved ones freely via call or text, sans unlimited internet access and an app store. POPSUGAR

Gabb Wireless 2020 Unboxing Video (this is for an older model. Gabb now offers a Z2 with additional, more advanced features):

Additional device recommendations

Pinwheel Phone

Pinwheel Phone

This phone was built by parents and is designed for kids ages 6 to 13. It has no social media, ads, Internet browser, or workarounds. You can adjust the types of apps based on the age and maturity of your child. Models ranges from $149 to $249 plus the cost of monthly service

Verizon Gizmo watch

Verizon GizmoWatch

Verizon’s GizmoWatch lets children receive calls, but only from numbers pre-approved by their parents. Parents can also let them send up to 20 pre-approved text messages.  Verizon's GizmoHub app lets parents locate their children at any time and get alerts if they travel outside a predetermined safety zone. The GizmoWatch also has a fitness and hopscotch tracker.

Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie

Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie

The Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie is a push-to-talk screenless device. It lets parents chat with their kids and track their whereabouts. The phone also has channels for kids to listen to music.

Key takeaway: When should my student get a smartphone?

Parents should decide WHEN. Here are suggestions from the SmartSocial.com Team:

Ages 0-10 - No phone

Age 10 - Sign a family cell phone safety agreement

Ages 10-13 - Non-smartphone (a device that lets you text/SMS and make phone calls)

Age 14 - Smartphone (without social media apps installed)

Age 15 - Smartphone (with parent-approved social media apps installed)

More resources

Conclusion

Comment below to let us know what you think, what you learned, or if you have any other questions the SmartSocial team can help you answer!


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Dangers Every Parent Should Know Before Giving Their Student A Smartphone (2022)

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