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In today’s world our children are exposed to technology in a way that we never had been. In a time where instant gratification is the norm and the cellphone is an item that no teen can possibly do without, more and more children are suffering from what is becoming known as “cellphone addiction”. This could almost be compared to reading a good book – wanting to see how it all ends, unable to put the book down. Except that this isn’t a book. And it doesn’t really have an end.
A child’s entire social life seems to be wrapped up in the simple hand held device. At an age where we were writing proper letters on actual paper the youth of today are typing and texting each other – with instantaneous results. They text their friends on a regular basis or upload pictures to social networks. Everything takes place at the last moment. Arrangements can be made and rearranged at the click of a button. Receive good and bad news unexpectedly when out and about. They are always available and are contacted as the mood strikes.
The youth are more social and yet more anti-social than ever before. It is easier for them to chat “online” via text, than it is to simply call or talk to someone face to face. Feelings and emotions are expressed using emoticons rather than listening to someone. The reason for this is that with the introduction of instant chats and SMS bundles (or even free text messages) communication is becoming simpler and faster. The dictionary as we know it is being redefined. The youth do not use predictive text simply because it takes longer to SMS using this feature and a full word eats up way to many characters.
Behaviour to Look Out For
There are a few things that parents can watch out for in their child’s mobile phone behaviour:
- High cellphone bills. Is the child doing whatever he or she can in order to obtain airtime (such as begging, borrowing, possibly even stealing money)?
- Is the child “glued” to the cellphone? Their eyes never leaving the screen for a moment.
- Is the cellphone always in hand? Can they put it down when sitting with family, watching television etc, or are they constantly playing with it?
- Are they using their cellphones in inappropriate places? For instance, in a restaurant, at a dinner table or at a movie theatre.
Advice to Parents
If you are worried that your child may be developing an unhealthy relationship with their cellphone there are various things you can do, or if you are thinking about giving your child a cellphone, there are various guidelines you can follow, namely:
- Set guidelines as to when it is ok and when is it not to use the cellphone (i.e. at the dinner table is a “no-no”. The cellphone must be left in the living area when the children go to bed (children are now apparently "SMS’ing in their sleep").
- Set time limits as to how long each day they can use and play with their cellphone.
- Ensure that they still have face to face contact with their friends.
- Inform children of the dangers of chatrooms and Internet surfing.
- Understand the technology that your children are using.
- Be aware of and join the social networks that your children are frequenting.
- Interact at their level, being sure to bring them to understand the importance of face to face communication
These measures should be put in place at an early stage of the child-cellphone relationship. However, if you have tried these various things and you still feel that your child as a cellphone addiction, consult a psychologist.