American families deprive their children of smartphones

While cell phones have become an important part of our lives, American families are urging them to take a different approach. For Adriana Stacey, it’s very simple: “I will never buy a smartphone for any of my children.” This is a personal position born of professional experience. Stacey is a psychologist who works primarily with high school and college students in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and in her work regularly asks new “patients” to unlock their phones and show how much time they spend in front of a screen each day.

“I rarely find anyone who uses them for less than nine hours,” says the American doctor. “That’s why these teenagers spend more time on their phones than they sleep.”

She often urges these “patients” to delete at least one application. But for some of the young men who walked into her office, the idea of ​​not keeping up with Snapchat is almost impossible. “I told someone, ‘We can not continue your treatment until you stop using your phone,'” Stacey continues. “And they often do not come back, and that’s how strong the appeal of these devices is.”


So Stacey, a mother of four, made the decision not to leave her children to this fate.

“If they want a smartphone, it will be when they are 18, have a job and can afford it,” she says. It will be their choice. ” And Stacey is a fanatic in a “war” waged in American homes as adults try to limit the use of smartphones, which they believe can be harmful to children, while adults themselves struggle to establish healthy habits with their own phones. . The big surprise is that parents did not win, because the technology industry is pushing out products that insiders say are designed to be essential to our lives, while society largely succumbs to the standards and expectations created by all those phones and applications.

Even when it comes to children, 53 percent of American children have their own smartphone by the age of 11, according to a 2019 report by Kamen Sense Media. 89% of children have a smartphone by the age of 16.

An earlier report from the foundation found that 50% of teens feel addicted to their smartphones, and 59% of their parents thought this was the case. And all of this coincided with an astonishing increase in mental health challenges among teens, which some psychologists say could be linked to the harmful effects of social media use.

Urgent need

While Stacey sits with young patients struggling with anxiety, depression or lack of focus; And they can not understand why they have to cut back on their smartphones, with an idea running through her head: “It’s so stupid. These little devices control these children. ”

The psychiatrist may not force her patients to give up their smartphones, but she’s sure her children should not have it at an early age. By the end of grade eight, her daughter, Annalize Stacy, was the only one in her class without a smartphone.

Nor did her mother’s versions of how harmful these devices were to children’s brains, that made the matter any easier.

If her classmates decide to go out after school or over the weekend, they will make plans through messages they exchange on their phones. And when she went to sleep, she often saw other girls using their phones. Annalize, now 15, sometimes did not know what her classmates were talking about because gossip was exchanged over text messages or social media.

“I was frustrated just because I’m a more shy girl, so I definitely felt like I did not know many things, and I did not really know how to handle some things,” Annalize said in an interview via Zoem from her room.

make friends

The dance competitions were the worst. Annalize danced in middle school in a competition involving girls from different schools. The girls spent time with their phones, during breaks during competitions, while waiting for their turn to perform. But Annalize was confused at the time. “I tried to talk to the female colleagues, but they used their phones, or browsed Snapchat, or whatever,” she says. And she does not blame them for socializing with people, online, they already know.

Annalize brought a book to the competitions and spent more time lying alone. She still loved dancing, but the dynamics were not pleasant. “That was one of the reasons that made me stop dancing for a year,” the student says, adding, “It was hard for me to make friends in the team.”

Mom (Adriana Stacey) knows how difficult it is for her daughter, Annalize, and says, ‘It’s a double-edged sword. I can see it in my children and how it affects them and their relationships. ”

But the doctor is convinced that despite all the challenges, smartphones should not be used in adolescence, because the outcome of owning a smartphone will be worse.

For Vera, the 13-year-old daughter of Wendy Herlich, it means a lot to be prevented from owning a smartphone, and none of that is good. First, there are the practical issues. Vera did not know what to do when the teacher asked the students to take a picture of the notes with their phones, but she could not.

Sessions at school often begin with a quiz game, which requires a smartphone answer. And she can not do it.

Sometimes her friends take pity on her and give her one of their phones and say she can borrow it for a while. She really hates it.

• 89% of American children have a smartphone by the age of 16.

• 50% of teens feel addicted to their smartphones.

lack of confidence

Aside from the practical side, Vera (daughter of Wendy Herlich) feels that not having a smartphone is an indication that her parents do not trust her, and do not care about her feelings. How can they understand what it means to be 13 and without a voice, you wonder? And smartphones were not available when her parents were children.

Vera’s parents allow her to have a “non-smart” phone, with which she can make calls and send text messages. And she’s so ashamed that she never shows that phone in front of other kids, especially kids she does not know so well.

“It’s really ridiculous,” said the girl. “There are many children who judge me; As if I am not responsible enough to own something that other people have. ”

collective decision

In fact, the American mother (Wendy Herlich) cares about the feelings of her daughter (Vera), and the 47-year-old advertising expert says she and her husband are hurt by the smartphone dilemma. Then Wendy heard about Wait Until Eight, a non-profit organization that encourages parents to make a joint decision to keep smartphones out of their children’s hands until the last year of middle school, to reduce the effects of excessive phone use without much isolation to create. This in theory seemed like a good idea.

“Part of what makes me uncomfortable with this whole thing is that there is no other choice,” says the mother, “because everyone feels that the world is going in that direction.”

Herlich’s choice not to allow phones was tested at that age when her family moved from Manhattan to New Jersey during the pandemic; Vera had to enroll at a new school. She will have to make new friends, and she will not be able to communicate with them over the phone.

help parents

Emily Cherkin sometimes gets angry when she talks about the impact of smartphones on children. She spent 12 years as a seventh grade English teacher in Seattle. When she started, in 2003, only a few of her students had smart phones, and they were often embarrassed about it; Because having a phone – then – means your parents are overprotective. By the time I left school in 2015, the opposite was true.

Cirkin now works as an activist and coach, and is part of an emerging new field of counseling, with the goal of helping parents struggling with the impact of screens on their children.

This is a difficult dilemma for anyone to drive safely. And smartphones can expose children to all sorts of toxic things online: cyberbullying, pornography, bad information, and social media fraud. Yet devices are so intertwined with modern life that it also does not seem like an option to deprive children of it.

“What really irritates me is that we offer devices, products and applications designed to make children addicted,” says Cirkin.

Emily Sherkin advises parents on the impact of smartphones. archive

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