American families are depriving their children of smartphones

As cellphones have become an important part of our lives, American families are insisting they take a different approach. For Adriana Stacey, it’s very simple: “I would never buy a smartphone for any of my children.” It is a personal position born of professional experiences. Stacey is a psychologist who works primarily with high school and college students in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and in her job regularly asks new “patients” to unlock their phone and show how much screen time they spend each day.

“I rarely find anyone who uses them for less than nine hours, explains the American doctor. Consequently, these teenagers spend more time on their phone than they spend sleeping.”

She often urges these “patients” to remove at least one app. But for some of the young men who walked into his office, the idea of ​​unfollowing Snapchat is near impossible. “I said to someone, ‘We can’t continue your treatment until you stop using your phone,'” Stacey continues. “And often they don’t come back, and that’s the pull of these devices.”


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’re 18, they have a job, and they can afford it,” she says. It will be their choice. And Stacey is a big fan of a “war” being waged in American homes as adults try to limit the use of smartphones, which they say can be harmful to children, while adults themselves struggle to establish healthy habits with their own phones. The big surprise is that parents didn’t win, as the tech industry pushes out products that insiders say are designed to be essential to our lives, while society largely succumbs to the norms and expectations created by all. these phones and apps.

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

A previous report from the foundation found that 50% of teens felt addicted to their smartphones and 59% of their parents thought they were. And it’s all coincided with a startling rise in mental health issues among teens, which some psychologists believe may be linked to the harmful effects of social media use.

Urgent need

While Stacey sits with young patients who struggle with anxiety, depression, or lack of focus; And they don’t understand why they should reduce their smartphone consumption, with an idea that runs through his head: “It’s so stupid. These little devices control these children.

The psychiatrist cannot force her patients to give up their smartphones, but she is certain that her children should not have one from an early age. At the end of eighth grade, her daughter, Annalize Stacy, was the only one in her class without a smartphone.

Neither did his mother’s stories about how harmful these devices were to children’s brains, that made things easier.

If her classmates decide to go out after school or on weekends, they will make plans via messages they exchange on their phones. And when she went to sleep, she often ended up seeing other girls using their phones. Annalize, now 15, sometimes didn’t know what her classmates were talking about because gossip was being exchanged via text or social media.

“I was frustrated just because I’m a more shy girl, so I really felt like I didn’t know a lot of things, and I didn’t really know how to handle certain things,” Annalize said during a interview via Zoom from his bedroom.

to make friends

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, waiting for their turn to perform. But Annalize was confused at the time. “I was trying to talk to the female co-workers, but they were using their phones, or browsing Snapchat, or whatever,” she says. And she doesn’t blame them for socializing with people, online, they already know.

Annalize brought a book to competitions and spent more time posing alone. She still liked to dance, but the dynamic wasn’t fun. “That’s one of the reasons that made me stop dancing for a year,” says the student, adding, “It was hard for me to make friends on the team.”

Mum (Adriana Stacey) knows how difficult it is for her daughter, Annalize, saying: “It’s a double-edged sword. I can see that with my kids 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 would be worse.

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

Sessions at school often begin with a quiz, which requires answering on a smartphone. And she can’t do that.

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

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

• 50% of teenagers feel dependent on their smartphone.

lack of confidence

Convenience aside, Vera (daughter of Wendy Herlich) feels that not having a smartphone is an indication that her parents don’t trust her and don’t care about her feelings. How can they figure out what it means to be 13 and speechless, you wonder? And smartphones didn’t exist when his parents were kids.

Vera’s parents allow her to have a “dumb” phone, with which she can make calls and send texts. And she’s so embarrassed that she never shows this phone in front of other kids, especially kids she doesn’t know very well.

“It’s really ridiculous, said the girl. There are a lot of kids who judge me; As if I was not responsible enough to own something that other people have.

collective decision

In fact, the American mother (Wendy Herlich) cares about her daughter’s (Vera) feelings, 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 collective decision to keep smartphones out of their children’s reach until the senior year of middle school, to reduce the effects of overuse of the phone, without creating too much isolation. It sounded like a great idea in theory.

“Part of what makes me uncomfortable about all of this is that there is no other choice,” the mother says, “because everyone feels like the world is heading in this direction.”

Herlich’s choice not to allow phones was tested at this age, when his family moved from Manhattan to New Jersey, during the pandemic; Vera had to enroll in a new school. She will have to make new friends, and she will not be able to communicate with them on 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 dumb cell phones, and they were often embarrassed by them; 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 part of a growing new field of counseling, with the aim of helping parents struggling with the impact of screens on their children.

This is a difficult dilemma to manage safely. And smartphones can expose children to all sorts of toxic things online: cyberbullying, porn, misinformation, and social media fraud. Yet the devices are so intertwined with modern life that depriving children of them doesn’t seem like an option either.

“What really annoys me is that we’re offering devices, products, and apps that are designed to get kids hooked,” Cirkin says.

Emily Sherkin advises parents on the impact of smartphones. archives

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