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Pros & Cons of Kids Smart Phone Use

Author: Dr. William Rappaport
Date: August 2017

Child on mobile phone

Teaching responsible use is the key

Every parent in the 21st century must ask the question, “When is it ok for my child to have a cell phone”? It equates to parents in the 20th century asking, “When is it ok to let a child watch television”? The answer is when your son or daughter can use these devices responsibly. Lets’ face it, we live in a mobile and global society. Responsible use of electronics is the key to allowing our children the inevitability of owning a cell phone. 

SAFETY: Technology has enabled parents to put controls on our kids’ devices. One such control is the ability to track where they are at all times. Parental controls limit what can and cannot be searched or viewed. 

Having a smart phone can be a lifeline in the event of a family emergency or even a tragedy that may occur living in the world or at school. It can be a safety net for your child who can contact you in a time of need. 

Some would argue that having a device encourages cyberbullying, sexting, or texting while driving. This is where we need to have discussions with our children. Awareness of dangers, the affect it can have on a person’s life, and proper etiquette is the key. There is a responsible and right way to use devices and we know our children best. If your child is mature, you trust them, they know right from wrong and the proper use of cell phones.

ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE: Living in a large city like NY can feel at times insecure for kids when they learn to venture out on their own without parents. When a child is given a device where they could easily have a connection to a trusted loved one, the insecurity and fear they may be feeling can be greatly diminished.

It can also teach kids to be responsible citizens. If they see something that may be wrong or a person is in need of help, they can help save a life by having the ability to call 911 from their phone. 

RESEARCH: Part of learning to be responsible with a smart phone is learning to use it for all the right reasons. Having access to the internet at a moment’s notice whether at home or while being out, can encourage a child to explore certain issues and topics with friends. These phones can be used to study, learn about things that may be of interest in a group setting or just explore other cultures. 

GAMING: Online games are the board games of the 21st century. It is just a fact of life that kids play with friends through the internet. We can fight it, we can think its antisocial, or we can embrace it and look at the positive aspects. There are games that teach building environments, test a kids’ knowledge of the world, or creating art. They can have playdates with friends in other countries. Its endless. 

Unfortunately, over the last several years I have seen patients seeking medical care due to obsessive use of smart phones for texting and gaming. Symptoms related to insomnia, fatigue and poor school performance are becoming more common, (one of my 12-year-old female patients was texting 12,000 times a month and getting no sleep). Cell phone use is also taking time away from healthy outdoor activity leading to problems of overweight and obesity. Lastly, there are the extreme cases where teenagers bent on sharing ‘‘live streaming’’ have taken their own lives and others in car accidents. Apps are used to buy drugs and alcohol without leaving the house. These devices are a window to the outside world and in order to protect our children’s health parents have to be vigilant, involved and restrict their use when necessary.


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