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 lead to some serious problems.
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.
A 2018 Pew Research Center study 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:
- 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”
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.Source: 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.
Can your child’s first phone 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 Just look at what happened to ten students who had their offers to Harvard rescinded after administrators discovered offensive posts in a private, online Facebook messaging group.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.
Smart Social’s Device Recommendations
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.
Gabb Wireless (Promo Code: SMARTSOCIAL)
This device looks like a smartphone but is specifically designed for tweens and teens. It has all of the features your child needs from a phone including calling, texting, calendar, alarm, calculator, and camera without the internet, games, social media, or the app store.
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 Phone?
Parents should decide WHEN. This is what the Smart Social team suggests:
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)
If you do get your student a smartphone for Christmas, be sure to take Smart Social’s newest course (starting on December 17, 2019): 10 Ways Parents Can Safely Set Up Their Student’s New iPhone (with safety tips for Android devices).
Smart Social’s Membership lets you unlock all of our digital safety, college prep, anti-bullying, and student safety courses.