cell phone sanity

My name is Dale Wisely. I have been a clinical child and adolescent psychologist for more years than there have been cell phones! I'm not saying anymore.

This website comes out of my worry that we are giving children cell phones before they are developmentally ready and without enough consideration to the health and behavioral impact. We are all increasingly aware of the problems with this. I propose here what I believe is a sensible approach to this problem.

Here's a summary of ideas on this topic and then I have some more details for you. Because that's where the devil is. He's in those details.

1. Hold Out. Don't buckle to pressure.

MOM! I'M THE LAST KID

IN THE 5TH GRADE

NOT TO HAVE AN iPHONE!!

a. It's probably not true. b. Why should you care?

Maybe your child could be one of the last ones in his peer group to get a smart phone, or that little hand-held gaming thingy. Will being one of the last ones kill him? Answer: No.

Incidentally, in the last year or so, I've become convinced that young people simply should not have smart phones until they are in high school. I'm not naive enough to think that we are going back to those times. However, I think evidence is mounting that the harm that could come from junior high/middle school/and certainly elementary age children having smart phones outweighs the good.

2. Ease In.

Rather than going from having no cell phone at all to immediately having one, maybe it would be better to transition in to having a cell phone over time. That's what much of the rest of this website is about. So hang in there with me. I have more to explain because I'm a compulsive explainer. (I diagnosed myself with that.)

3. Limit.

Put limits on the time and setting your child can operate the device. Examples: No digital devices at meals. No phone after a certain time at night. No portable game machine or phone during conversations. Especially important, in my opinion: No phone in your room after bedtime. Depending on the nature of the digital device, consider having this rule apply to iPads, laptops, and other devices. By the way, as of 2018, the latest update on iPhones includes some powerful tools for monitoring and setting limits on screen time!

4. Monitor.

Once your child is carrying a digital device, such as a phone or a table computer, reserve the right to take it up and inspect the contents with no notice. Parents should stay involved. Check up on kids' use of these devices. Trust, so to speak, but verify. Okay, really, don't trust AND do verify.

5. Encourage Other Activity.

One of the worries is that time spent using digital devices is the time it takes away from other, healthier activities. So, it may not be enough to say "Put that phone down." Instead, we may need to provide lots of opportunities for other activities. If your child is participating in sports, playing board games with family, going to museums, exercising, and engaging in a range of healthy activity, this may crowd-out excessive "screen time."

6. Teach by Example.

A command from a parent of "Get off that phone and do something healthy" will be less credible if spoken by a parent who is on his or her smartphone at the time. And don't get me started on this.

Young mother on cellphone while driving with infant in backseat.

What is wrong with this person? She is hypnotized by her phone! Drop that sweet baby off at your Mom's where she'll be safe! And, hey, 2004 called and wants its phone back!