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Technology - Smartphones

More than any other technology, smartphones are creating the greatest risks for children because of accumulated effects, including...

  1. It is harder to monitor Smartphone use -  how much time children are spending on them and what they are doing with them.
  2. There are dozens of smartphone apps that enable anonymous communication, disinhibited communication, and communication between strangers.  Many apps are not age-appropriate for children (rated 17+/21+) and some apps are inappropriately rated for children (rated 12+) when they shouldn't be.  And of course, a child can install any app regardless of the rating.
  3. Because of their addictive quality, children with smartphones are also staying up later to remain connected to their social media; their sleep is more frequently being interrupted by these devices.  In October, 2016 Doug Fodeman gave a workshop to a large group of pediactric doctors and nurses on technology use by children.  He asked the group to raise their hands if they had patients in their care whose sleep was being impacted negatively due to the use of smartphones and social media.  Nearly all hands went up.
  4. With access to smartphones at younger and younger ages, children are spending less timing engaging with the world around them, more time using smartphones to avoid having difficult face-to-face conversations.  This is a growing concern raised by more and more people.  Visit the site called for additional useful information.

Perhaps one of the best articles to summarize concerns focused on smartphones and addiction is this article published in The Daily Beast, on January 9, 2018 titled Just How Bad Is Kids' Smartphone Addiction?

On February 23, 2018, Vox posted an excellent 5-minute video on YouTube titled "It's not you. Phones are designed to be addicting."  It contains several excellent suggestions to help us lower our addiction to smartphones based on psychology and research. For example:
1. turn off non-human notifications e.g. Facebook notifications to tell you someone has posted a link to an event
2. set phone display to gray-scale rather than color.  (See the video!  I had no idea how important color on our phones is to getting our attention)
3. move our apps around so ONLY everyday important tools are on our home screens we log into

A very well written article came out in the February edition of Scholastic magazine for teens called "Choices."  The article explains, in very easy to understand descriptions, WHY gaming devices and smartphones are designed to be addictive and HOW that addiction happens in our brains.  This is followed by some questions for teens to evaluate whether or not they feel addicted and what they can do to break that addiciton.  The article also cites research showing that 50% of teens report feeling addicted to their smartphones. (70% of teens have a smartphone in this research).  Visit Scholastic's website:  Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

Listen to a podcast conversation with Tom Ashbrook's On Point when he tried to answer the question "When Should Your Kids Get Smartphones? Some Say Wait Until 8th Grade"  (Posted 12/3/2017)  There is a growing movement of parents who support the idea of waiting until 8th grade before giving their children a smartphone.  Doug Fodeman at Brookwood strongly supports this premise.  To learn more, visit:  (Also, visit the article posted August 17, 2017 on NPR titled "How Smartphones Are Making Kids Unhappy.")  There is a growing body of evidence that Smartphones are having a cumulative negative impack on a generation of kids.  Read Professor Jean Twenge's article Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? in The Atlantic Magazine.

New Parental Control apps appear each year and it is important to check for quality apps that can help parents monitor and set boundaries.  One such app getting attention is "Our Pact." OurPact is a simple family locator and parental control app that allows parents to locate family members and limit screen time by blocking internet and app access.  Another app getting lots of positive reviews is called "Kidslox."  Kidslox is available for both Android and iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) and has lots of good features including setting limits on the time a child can use the device.

There are many smartphone apps that are not appropriate for young teens but are attracting their attention and use including "Hot or Not," "Chance," "Sneak," and "Yik Yak."  Smartphone apps that enable anonymous communication, communication between strangers or “rating” other people are very risky.  Some also allow users to post photos/videos anonymously or identify user location.  Most are rated either 17+ or 21+.  The apps include:

After School               Secret                        TBH (To Be Honest)
Ask (               Spayce                      Sarahah (Info about this app)
Back Chat                   Sneek
Burnbook                    Street Chat
Chance                         Swipe
Flinch                            Tinder
Hot or Not                   Yik Yak
Omegle                         Whisper
Peeple                           YouNow

This website has a good description of the issues and apps:

CAUTION: Burn Book is a very dangerous app that has been in the media a lot because of teen misuse. Check out...

NOTE: There are some risky apps that teens use to hide things like photos from parents.  They actually hide nothing because if a smartphone is confiscated and searched by police investigating a crime the photos are easily discovered.  These and other apps are described in this article called "6 Underground Apps Students Hide From Schools" (and parents).

NOTE 2: There is a great deal of misinformation being circulated online about an app called "Blue Whale."  Presumably, the app encourages children to hurt themselves in ever-increasing ways, resulting in an attempt at suicide at day 50.  This self-hurt app, downloaded by many children in Europe and Russia, has been largely de-bunked as myth.  Read this article from to learn more about this app and what are the real concerns regarding teen suicide and this app.

  Cell Phone Guidelines for Middle Schoolers: What You Should Know

  Peeple launched in November, 2015.  It already has a lot of media attention.  The app developer says it is rated 21+.

It is not recommended that children below 7th grade engage in texting.  Social drama often begins with texting and group texts amongst younger children are often hurtful.  If parents do give permission for their children to text, it is strongly advised that parents routinely check on their child's texts.  You may also choose to tell your child that texts may not be deleted and missing texts may lead to consequences.  Some websites claim to provide instructions how to retrieve deleted texts.  We cannot verify their success but provide these links as possible resources:

Parental Control Software to Monitor Texting
Phone Sheriff:
Secure Teen:
My Mobile Watchdog:

Recovering Deleted iPhone Texts:

Recovering Deleted Android Phone Texts:

Additional Pages:
Specific Recommendations:
Lastest Research:
Technology Contracts for Kids:

Specific Issues and Concerns About:

            Social Media:
            Video Games:

What You Might Say To Your Child:
Additional Related Resources: