We live in a mobile world. Everything from ordering food to changing the channel to figuring out how many teaspoons are in a cup can be done via the smartphone that we always keep close by.
The pros and cons of smartphone usage has been an endlessly entertaining topic as adults far and wide debate the overall net positive or negative that our smartphones provide — but what about our children?
It isn’t a hypothetical question. Over half of the children in the U.S. have a cell phone at this point, and they’re using them for between five and seven hours per day on average, not including school work. While there are obvious benefits to having a phone, what risks are young people running each and every time they pick up their cellular devices?
Harmless Features in the Wrong Hands
The number of young smartphone users and the quantity of time they spend on their phones is alarming enough as is. However, it’s also important to consider the fact that not all children can be trusted to use a cellphone safely.
We’re not just talking about inappropriate websites or unauthorized online purchases here, either. While there are some startups that have focused on developing safe phones for kids, many children are simply given fully functional “adult” phones that, if less expensive than mom and dads, still boast all of the typical capabilities of the average smartphone.
And there’s the rub. While they may seem safe on the surface, there are actually quite a few harmless features on the average phone that have the potential to cause quite a bit of harm when put in the hands of a child.
While you can always install an app to block the obviously inappropriate sites, it’s difficult to completely cut your child off from using the internet on their phone. And yet, the internet is home to a host of unsavory activity, all of which remain right at their fingertips as long as they have basic internet access.
Apps and In-App Purchases
If the internet wasn’t bad enough, applications can make things even more difficult, as many of them aren’t necessarily compatible with parental control software. Apps can once again give your child access to nearly anything, from gambling sites to social media (more on that further down) and everything in between.
In addition to the actual content concern, many apps have in-app purchases and are designed to be addictive. This can lead to excessive use and incredible amounts of money spent on purchases within games.
Texting can be your lifeline to your child as they attend school, head off to summer camp, or hang out with friends. But there are also plenty of ways that kids can abuse texting for the worse. The inherent texting feature that comes with all smartphones allows the user to send and receive cyberbullying messages. In fact, 46% of teens have been called offensive either on their cell phone or while online. Unmonitored texting can open kids up to bullying that can leave them feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, and isolated.
The same can be said for social media, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media platform, children can easily access them on their smartphones. When they do it can open up a Pandora’s box of potentially inappropriate behavior. The constant bombardment of what others are doing and what others have on social media can lead to depression. While it can be a great mind break for adults, it can have lasting negative impacts on kids.
It’s easy to download the Uber or Lyft app and call for a ride, and this can once again be a powerful tool that enables parents to avoid the need to taxi their kids around all of the time. Nevertheless, it also gives children of all ages an inordinate amount of control over virtually unrestricted transportation that doesn’t require parental approval.
Because phones have become small computers in our pockets, they are full of smartphone features that aren’t appropriate for kids. Many of them are harmless on the surface, but they expose children to a variety of dangers and threats that are often hardly worth the benefits that come with owning a smartphone in the first place.
Guest Author Bio
Jamie is a freelance writer who covers trends in business, technology, and health. She loves to go skiing, camping, and rock climbing with her family.
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