In the age of technology, parents denying their teens a smartphone is blatant child abuse, at least in the eyes of the teen. Between Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, a teen’s entire life revolves around minute-to-minute check-ins. Smartphones have opened the door for sexual predators, bullying, and complete withdrawal from the world that surrounds them. But, with every bad there is a good and it’s knowing how to make the technology takeover work for you.
The smartphone is the best bargaining chip ever created. A teen would sooner die than lose his or her phone. Parents need to use this upper hand to get just about anything done: “You will get your phone back when XYZ is done.” Teens should understand that a phone is a privilege and not a right, so if they don’t want to cooperate, then there is a consequence.
Second, there is no greater source of information than a teen’s phone. From information in text, to locations, to the dreaded selfies, teens cannot help themselves when it comes to sharing every aspect of their lives. There are countless stories of teens getting busted because they posted a picture on Instagram with the person they were not supposed to be with or from a place they were not supposed to be. There are several great apps that allow parents to see deleted texts, and track locations and websites visited. These same apps allow parents to add controls that block X-rated websites, and notify them when the teen leaves a location or signs up for social media apps.
Accidents are the leading cause of death among teens and smartphones have only increased that. A recent study showed that 34% admitted to texting and driving.Another study reported that 11 teens die per hour because of distracted driver accidents.Not only are teens distracted, they also are inexperienced and are increasing their risk of injury. Teens are 23 times more likely to be in an accident as a result of distracted driving ( www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats ).
Now, there are apps that will alert parents when the teen is driving above the speed limit or has left the restricted area designated by the parent. These apps can silence incoming texts and prevent texts from being sent if the teen is in motion. Some of the apps will read the text out loud and respond with an automated response, letting the caller know that they are unavailable. Canary , My Mobile Watchdog , and Drivesafe.ly are examples, but both Sprint and Verizon have similar apps available. This is an excellent way for parents to monitor teen driving habits. The cost varies from $7.99/month to $99/month but the information provided is priceless.
Whether we like it or not, smartphones are here and have totally changed how teens interact and give them limitless exposure. Many parents, even if they own a smartphone, only use it for its basic functions and may have no idea these types of controls exist. Educating parents that they can use the phone as a tool to monitor and protect their teens is an important part of the well visit, and could very well save a life.
Dr. Pearce is a pediatrician in Frankfort, Ill. Email her at email@example.com.