When Should Kids Have Cell Phones? Savvy Parents Reveal Best Strategies

When Should Kids Have Cell Phones? Savvy Parents Reveal Best Strategies

At what age should kids have cell phones? That’s something all parents are wondering today!

Are there guidelines that will make your decision easier? Or ingenious new products that can give your child the ability to call you without granting them total access to the internet?

Yes!

Should Kids Have Cell Phones

We asked members of our Facebook Parent Discussion group: “What age do you let your children get a cell phone? And why?”

The responses were brilliant! In fact, one of the parents recommended the discussion be included in a parenting manual. For now, let’s start with an information-packed blog post!

Should kids have cell phones? Many parents have good reasons

1. Safety and a parent’s peace of mind

One parent was going back to work and wanted her child to have a phone to be able to call at any time. Another parent wanted her child to have a cell phone for safety while they were riding the bus to and from school, explaining, “We needed the sense and security that she could get a hold of us if she needed anything.” Another mom felt her daughter should have a phone when she went babysitting, since fewer and fewer people have landlines anymore.

2. To use at school for class work

Apparently some teachers are asking kids to use their personal devices to do in-class research. However, a teacher in our Facebook group pointed out that kids should not be required to use their personal devices in class. If students in your child’s class are being asked to look up information on their personal devices:

“You should feel free to address this with the principal, as that is certainly not school policy to have students using their personal devices to do significant amounts of research . . . It sounds like their teacher has let things slip a bit and just needs a reminder to be more on the ball with booking the tech, or to plan lessons that make use of books or the smartboard instead of students’ phones.”

Linking cell phones with responsibility

Several parents have a policy that their children need to be old enough to pay for their own phone and monthly service. “I think it is very easy to be trained to take certain conveniences for granted and this one is costly in up-front and month-to-month costs . . .” Another mom commented, “If he [her son] wants a smartphone, he’ll have to wait until he can pay for it on his own.”

A few parents tied the use of a smartphone to certain milestones and conditions:

  • “16, if they are driving and have a job and have good grades.”
  • “None of our kids got phones before 16. Only then if they kept good grades and a job so they could pay for their phone. We paid the basic plan fees so the phone still belonged to us and they were renting it to use each month. If poor grades or behavior get their phone taken away, they do not get a refund.”

Other parents require a signed contract and enforce consequences for not keeping the rules. “When we gave phones to our boys, we had them sign an acceptable usage contract and we made sure they understood it. They both have had infractions that caused them to lose their phones 1x each.”

Several parents brought up the Wait Until 8th initiative to address the big decision parents are considering: should kids have cell phones? “The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone.” Even Bill Gates did not allow his kids to have phones until they were 14!

Get our FREE guide below! Is My Child Ready for a Smartphone? 10 Questions to Guide Parents

Some kids are actually grateful to not have a smartphone

Although many kids beg for smartphones at early ages, they might just be grateful that their parents said, “Not yet.” One mom shared that her teens were glad they didn’t have smartphones.

”They did complain that all their friends have their own smartphone, but mostly because they do not like to ‘be different’ by not having a smartphone. My oldest one told me that she actually is grateful not to have a smartphone because she thinks she would waste so much time on it and it would be a shame . . . My 16- and 14-year-olds recently went to a birthday party where half of the time the other teenagers were on their phones. They came back home and told me that they were grateful to not have one!”

This mom also made sure she modeled appropriate phone use herself by using it deliberately and not letting it interfere with her family relationships.

 “They also see how I use mine, meaning I am not attached to it, when I’m home my cell phone is usually in ‘his place’ and stays there . . . We also have this rule that the electronics are used for a purpose, not because we are bored.”

Here’s a sad story from a second-grade student whose mom is always on her phone. (Originally posted on Facebook.)

Cell Phone Alternatives

It’s clear that many parents in the group are not comfortable granting kids a pocket portal to the internet. Happily, there are alternatives! Here are some hardware and software solutions suggested by our Facebook Parent Discusson group members:

  • Gizmo Gadget ($149) by LG through Verizon. “I got my kids these GPS watches from Verizon called GizmoGadget. $149 each but only $5 a month on your cell plan.” It allows up to 10 contacts to call and receive calls. You can send short texts and locate it via GPS, and monitor it from an app on your phone. It has options for simple fitness tracking. Waterproof, too! Available in Red or Navy.
  • GizmoPal 2 ($79) by LG through Verizon. “My kids (9 and 10) have them and I love them. They can only call 4 programed numbers and only those 4 numbers can call them. They have a GPS tracker on them too!” Available in Pink or Blue. It sends notifications if your child crosses set GPS boundaries. Waterproof.
  • Relay by Republic Wireless ($149 for 2 devices, $199 for 3 devices, $99 for an add-on device). A screen-free “walkie talkie” device that kids can carry in their pocket. Durable and water resistant, single button communication, nation wide range. Kids can also speak messages to text to your phone. Comes in several colors. $6.99 a month service charge per device. More functionality coming (music, games, Google assistant, etc.).

Mobile Phone Tech Solutions

If you decide your child is ready for a cell phone, there are lots of great tech options to help! These go hand-in-hand with ongoing conversations about how kids are using their phones.

  • Flip phones (aka voice phones): Yes, they are still available and can be a great option to allow kids to call and text without internet access. Some teens find they prefer them!
  • Pre-paid phones: When it’s the right time to get a phone, you can start with a less-expensive pre-paid phone that will limit the amount of data and minutes your child can use. Search online for “prepaid phones” and you’ll find several affordable options. Be sure you also set up some parental controls with these phones!
  • iPhone Parental Controls: If your kids have an iPhone, be sure to set up the iPhone parental controls that are already on the phone. You can restrict apps, content types, privacy settings, cellular data use, and more.
  • Android Parental Controls: With the free Google Family Link app, you can restrict apps, manage SafeSearch, control app permissions, set screen time limits, see the phone location, and more.
  • Disney Circle and Circle Go: Circle manages all the devices using Wi-Fi in your home, while Circle Go adds protection to mobile phones when kids use 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks away from home. Both services include filters, time limits and even a feature to reward kids! (Circle is a one-time cost of $99, add on Circle Go for $4.99 per month for 10 devices)
  • Covenant Eyes: For some teens, accountability software is a valuable tool. Covenant Eyes doesn’t filter the content on phones, but sends a report of internet activity to a parent or other accountability partner so that they can talk about it with their child. ($15.99 per month for everyone in your family).

A Purposeful 4-Level Plan

One parent shared how her kids get increasing access to technology as they grow:

  1. The Verizon Gizmo Gadget watch at around age 5.
  2. A flip phone that allows them to call and text at age 8.
  3. A smartphone without data so they can call, text and use it at home for games and filtered internet at age 12.
  4. A smartphone at age 14 (or freshman year in high school) with filtering like Circle by Disney.

Should kids have cell phones at the right age and with the right tools? Devising a graduated plan like this for your family is smart parenting. You may want to change the ages and products, but mentoring children with increased responsibility over time is the way to go!

Talking to kids about cell phones

While deciding when kids should have mobile phones and then setting up parental controls is important, setting clear rules and starting out with regular check-ups about using phones is just as critical, if not more so.

Make the rules very clear from the start:

  • Remember that you are the parent. The phone is your property, and you have the responsibility to take it back if needed.
  • Let them know you will regularly take a look at their pictures, texts, apps, and messages.
  • Talk about when it is ok to use the phone – such as rules for school, during dinner, homework time, and bedtime.
  • Many parents have all mobile devices charge overnight in their bedroom or another safe place.
  • An easy-access camera is a major feature of cell phones. Talk about taking and sharing photos appropriately and respecting people’s privacy.
  • When kids are old enough for access to a smart phone, they are old enough to have open conversations about sharing nudes (sexting) and other sexual behaviors that go on via mobile phone. Exposure to pornography is possible, as well as sexualized bullying, sexually suggestive conversations with other kids, body image issues from social media, and contact with predators.
  • There are lots of positive benefits to mobile phones too! Let kids share why they are excited to have a phone and frequently talk about good things they can do with this amazing tool. How can they brighten someone’s day with a kind call or text? How can they share photos that inspire and encourage others? Be sure to praise kids for good behavior with their phones!

Do your kids have a clear action plan for when they see pornography? Help them build their internet defense skills by reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids together!

Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures…I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents! –Amazon Review, March 14, 2014. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Your Family Phone Contract

There are lots of great resources to help parents with this big responsibility. With these ideas and more from this super list of cell phone rules and these ideas for a social media contract, you are ready to set some clear phone safety boundaries with your kids. Define your rules in a written agreement, have kids sign to make it official, and keep it visible so you can review it regularly together.

As you know, your own children are also affected by the way their friends use mobile phones. We’re all in this together, so please share this post with your friends and family!

Click below to get our free guide – Is My Child Ready for a Smartphone? 10 Questions to Guide Parents.

Cell Phones: A Gateway to Porn for Kids?

Cell Phones: A Gateway to Porn for Kids?

Cell phone prices are coming down. Perceived threats to children are going up. Many parents see cell phones as a safety measure for their kids…for peace of mind to help track their physical whereabouts. What’s the harm in buying little Aubrey a cell for her birthday?

Ironically, cell phones may cause more harm than good for kids when it comes to pornography.

A Hard Lesson

I know of one girl who received an i-Pod Touch (with an internet connection) for her eighth birthday. Her parents had just given her “the talk” and this girl was curious. So she turned to the internet and typed in “s-e-x” into the i-pod’s browser. Months later, her mom was devastated when she discovered that her young daughter had been regularly viewing hard core pornography on her i-pod. True story.

These good parents had no idea how accessible pornographic images and videos are, for free, over the internet. Cell phones have the same potential, especially the smart phones.

So here are three potential cautions to consider:

  • Kids’ brains are immature. The part which helps them use restraint, self-discipline and good judgment is years away from full maturity. It’s called the pre-frontal cortex and it won’t be fully developed until they are in their early twenties. Even if you warn your kids about porn, they may not have the maturity to handle the internet accessibility a cell phone provides.
  • Kids are very tech savvy. They are natives in the land of technology while their parents may be immigrants. In other words, kids can often outsmart their parents when it comes to cell phones. (Read more about this in my post Six Ways Savvy Kids Can Circumvent Your Internet Controls.)
  • Kids are curious and imitative. They are wired that way.  But when you add a revved-up curiosity with an immature brain, plus a facility with technology and the accessibility of porn on the internet, you get the potential for a perfect storm of addiction.

And it’s not just addiction. Kids who view porn get a very warped concept of sexual intimacy that may be very hard to change.

So what’s a parent to do?

If you decide to give your child a cell phone:

  1. Consider a basic pre-paid cell phone with no internet connection. This is for calling or texting only. Kids will still be open to cyber bullying and even sexting if the phone transmits pictures. Do your homework and find out if you can disable the phone’s ability to receive images.
  2. Talk to them about sexting. Ask them what they know about this term, and then explain what it is. If you’re giving your child a cell phone, you can’t afford to be squeamish. Make sure they understand that sexting between minors is a serious crime which can be prosecuted by police. Learn more about this conversation at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.
  3. Find a phone that allows you to set parental controls that are password protected (and then make sure you keep the password hidden from your kids). You need to know what your kids are downloading, so check their phone periodically. (For more info, see this New York Times article.)
  4. Take a look at the App store. You may be surprised at the amount of porn that is for sale intermingled with everything else. Seriously, the app portal images for porn are more than I’d want my kids to see. Also, make sure you ask them to explain any and all apps they have. Some apps look benign (like calculators) but actually are secret, password protected files where kids can store all sorts of websites and images.
  5. Lay down the law about cell phone privileges and use. Some parents collect cell phones at night so kids are not up late texting. Other parents collect cell phones from friends who come to visit, giving them back when they leave. Talk to your kids about cell phone etiquette—when it’s appropriate to answer a call or view a text and when it’s not.
  6. Teach them about the brain dangers of pornography. Porn viewing can become an addiction which can ruin future marriages and careers. If you are giving them a handheld internet portal, teach them how porn can damage their brain. (See my list of posts under PornProof 101 for a primer on pornography addiction.)

Would you hand over the car keys to a 16 year old without Driver’s Ed training? No way! But too often parents don’t anticipate the dangers from a little cell phone.

If you’ve bought a cell phone for your child, how did you prepare them? Have you found any great resources that helped you?

I’d love to hear your stories, advice or questions! To post a comment, go to the top and click on the grey bubble to the right of the title. I look forward to hearing from you!

How Dads Can Protect Their Kids Online: Excellent Advice from a Therapist

How Dads Can Protect Their Kids Online: Excellent Advice from a Therapist

Father And Daughter In Park

Father’s Day is almost here! Let’s talk about how dads can help their kids stay free from porn addiction. Dads who proactively teach their kids to steer clear from pornography of all kinds can have a huge impact on their kids, even if they’ve struggled themselves with a porn addiction. jeff fordThis week I Interviewed Jeffrey Ford, LMFT who counsels individuals with pornography and sexual addictions at LifeSTAR in St. George, Utah. Jeff graciously agreed to talk with me on the phone and answer questions about fathers and how they can help porn-proof their kids.

Kristen: How can fathers help their kids stay away from porn, or get out of it? What is their unique perspective?

Jeff: Fathers have a unique contribution in encouraging their kids to venture out and be successful in the world. In fact, the way mothers and fathers hold a baby has been studied. Mothers typically hold the baby over her shoulder in a very nurturing position, whereas fathers often hold the baby facing outwards. This is quite symbolic of the role of fathers in raising their kids. Fathers can have a huge impact on their kids’ attitudes. When fathers educate their kids about pornography, they are helping to protect them from a very real danger—just as real as drugs. I recently had some parents bring in their 12 year old son who had been looking at pornography since the age of eight. When I said to the boy, “I hear that you’ve been looking at pornography,” he had no idea that the images he’d been viewing were called pornography. So it’s crucial that fathers define these terms for their kids.

Kristen: How do you define pornography?

Jeff: Lots of people ask me for a definition. They want to know the difference between soft core and hard core pornography. But I say pornography is not what you see, it’s what you get. In other words, whatever arouses you sexually is porn, and it may be different for each individual.

two girls with cell phone

Kristen: What is the best age for kids to be warned about the dangers of pornography?

Jeff: It’s not a question of age, it’s a question of use. As soon as a child has any access to an internet-enabled device, they need to have some internet training. This is what we’ve told our three year old who uses our iPad, “If you see someone without clothes on, turn it off and bring it to mommy or daddy.” That’s as far as you need to go with a three or four-year old, but they need to have some warning.
Student working on task

Kristen: What’s your advice for a dad who struggles with a porn addiction and wants to help his kids avoid the same problem?

Jeff: The best thing a father can do who struggles with pornography is to start his own work so he can get into recovery. Kids may find out a father is using porn when they accidentally walk in and see dad viewing it. Sometimes the father doesn’t even know a child has found out, but it leaves the child with a huge burden, a huge secret which can lead to other serious problems. I’ve counseled children who carry this secret for years and I know how devastating that can be. But I’ve also seen their fathers get help and healing for themselves and their entire families. Fathers who struggle with pornography are often paralyzed by the shame, but again, the best gift they can give their kids is to start working on their own recovery whether it’s through professional counseling, a pastor or church leader, or a 12-step program.

In addition to getting started on their own recovery, I encourage dads to tell their kids. Kids often feel there’s something wrong. Dads don’t need to share the details of their addiction or recovery efforts, but it’s a big relief for kids to know that Dad is being proactive and getting help.

Young dad and son

Kristen: I can see Dad telling his teens that he’s getting help, but what about young kids?

Jeff:  Again, it’s not about the age of the child, it’s about their experience. If they’ve seen Dad viewing porn, or sense the problems a porn addiction can create in family relationships—even a young child of five can feel pain and shame. They can also feel relief when they know that dad is “going to the doctor to get help.”

Kristen: Any other advice you’d like to share with fathers? Father and son talking in living room

Jeff: Yes, fathers need to reassure their kids that they won’t get in trouble if they come and tell you about an accidental exposure to porn. Even if the child had a weak moment and gave into their innocent curiosity, they need to come and talk. Open communication between a father and his kids is powerful and very helpful in protecting them from the dangers of porn.

My Two Cents

Jeffrey Ford sees the tragic and devastating effects of pornography everyday on kids and families as he counsels them at LifeStar. He’s a father himself and understands the power dads have on their kids. I’m thankful he was willing to offer his important advice to all fathers. GPBP_26SmallFathers are so important! Their love, example and encouragement are so powerful! In the final chapter of Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Dad spends time with his son fixing a bike. He affirms what mom has taught and then gives some excellent advice of his own. Let’s honor dads, even those who struggle themselves, as they work to raise resilient and strong kids. What has your dad done to help you? As a father, how have you helped your children defend themselves against pornography? Thank you for leaving a comment!

Parent Alert! Now Parents Are Making Porn for Their Kids?!

Parent Alert! Now Parents Are Making Porn for Their Kids?!

“Mums Make Porn” – British Reality TV Shocker

Try to wrap your mind around this one.

A group of five presumably well-meaning moms in the UK are disgusted by the violence they discover when researching the porn film industry.

They are rightly concerned about how easy it is for children to access porn and its twisted messages.

So, the moms resolve to come up with a solution. Their idea?

Create “ethical porn” for kids.

In other words, produce porn in a way that will educate young people about what consensual and “healthy” sexual relationships look like.

The result of this crazy and twisted logic? A three-part documentary called Mums Make Porn that aired on Channel 4. The last episode features the moms showing their 12-minute porn film to their family, friends, and industry professionals! Including their own children.

One of the moms dropped out of the project early on, admitting that while she supported the concept, she didn’t want to be known as a porn producer.

Fortunately, many reasonable people do see how bizarre and unsound this phenomenon is:

“Using porn to promote ‘healthy attitudes toward sex’ doesn’t seem like much of a solution, let alone even possible in the first place.” Tré Goins-Phillips, Faithwire

What can we take away from this?

  • Don’t assume that you are on the “same page” with other parents when it comes to porn. I personally talked to one mom who gave her son videos on how to masturbate so that he would know how to “do it properly.” He was about nine years old at the time! This came up during a conversation about when and how to introduce sex education. Make sure you get to know the parents of your kids’ friends.
  • Start the conversations with your children early and often. The mom who dropped out of the porn project early on wrote: “Due to my cultural background, I had found it impossible to talk to my teenage daughter about sex. Sex was a taboo subject when I was growing up.” No matter what our own experience was, we can start a new, healthier conversation in our families.
  • Know why porn is bad and be able to communicate that. Half the battle is fighting against such destructive ideas in our culture. The other half is protecting your children from these harmful ideas. We’ve got some great resources to help you with both.

“Strong and Thriving Families” – National Child Abuse Prevention Month

What a great theme for the 2019 National Child Abuse Prevention Month! One full of hope and promise as we move into the spring season.

The initiative promotes awareness of child abuse in all forms – emotional, physical, verbal, and sexual. Communities commit to building stronger and safer environments for children.

April is a great month to consider what proactive steps you will take to help your family be strong and thrive in all situations.

Some tips to consider:

  • Take this free online parent course from Prevent Child Abuse Utah. It only takes 30 minutes! Make the promise to protect.
  • Does your child’s church, sports team, or other organization practice the Rule of Two? This means minimal or no one-on-one contact between a child and adult volunteer, coach, or helper. If travel is involved, make sure you know how children will be supervised. As well, no coach or adult volunteer should be contacting your minor child on social media privately!
  • Do you know who your child is talking to online? Look through their friend lists on social media, their cell phones, and other devices. Ask about any people you don’t recognize, especially if they appear to be new contacts. Teach them to block and/or unfriend followers they don’t know or are uncomfortable with.
  • Model how technology should be used. If our kids are going to use digital media responsibly, then we need to show them how to do that. Let your kids see you disconnect from screens and talk through your own decisions to manage technology. Invest in non-digital family time during dinner to reconnect as a family. Have fun together playing board games, going on hikes, or volunteering as a family.

“As a Nation, we must do everything within our power to stop child abuse and neglect before they occur. The best defense against these menaces is a strong family led by loving and caring parents.” Proclamation on National Child Abuse Prevention Month, 2019

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

YouTube: The Problem That Keeps on Growing

We’ve kept you up-to-date on YouTube’s porn and pedophile problem in previous posts.

There’s still much more to add to this conversation.

For one thing, as parents, we can’t ignore YouTube. It’s simply become a large part of nearly all kids’ media consumption.

YouTube has made numerous promises to consumers groups and parents over the years to scrub the illegal and unethical content. But kids continue to see violent imagery, sexually suggestive cartoons, drug references and other inappropriate videos. The Washington Post is just one of many sources revealing the troubling content that parents worry about.

Last month, the disturbing Momo videos stressed many parents out as they scrambled to sort out the truth from fiction in this viral challenge.

James Steyer, Chief Executive of Common Sense Media sums up perfectly the parental dilemma with YouTube:

“YouTube is the biggest pain point for parents today … Kids just stumble into completely inappropriate content constantly because it’s algorithmically driven.”

Has the problem become too large for YouTube to handle through their own policy and technology controls?

Leonore Reiser, a mother from Oakland was shocked to find that her nine-year-old son’s YouTube viewing history had sexually explicit content. She realized that he had looked through YouTube unattended at one point, had searched for a profanity, and then received explicit “recommended videos” as a result.

Her conclusion?

“Because of all the creepy, weird stuff he’s finding, we’re actually watching YouTube less. I deleted it from the TV, and I’m deleting it from my iPhone.”

So what’s the answer for keeping kids safe in a YouTube world?

For some parents, deleting the app for a while, or longer, may be the solution in their families – especially for those with younger children..

For everyone, vigilance is key. Strengthen and monitor your family rules for YouTube. And above all, help your kids build their “internal filter” and practice what to do when they see bad content. This may be the biggest line of defense that we can give them!

Get your free guide to 3 Simple Definitions of Pornography Kids Can Understand! Click the image below.

 

Parent Alert! The Surprising Results When 10 Teen Girls Did a Digital Detox

Parent Alert! The Surprising Results When 10 Teen Girls Did a Digital Detox

Our regular Parent Alert! news updates help parents stay ahead of the trends affecting kids in our hypersexualized culture.

digital detox

This month we’re covering headlines from the social media world: digital detox for teens; new research on mental health and social media; Tumblr bans pornography; and what’s going on with Celine Dion’s new fashion line for kids?

Here’s what’s trending in December 2018!

Hold the Phone! Is Your Child Ready for a Social Media Cleanse?

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center reported that 45% of teens are online “almost constantly.” Amazingly, this is almost double the number of kids who reported this in 2014-2015!

At the same time, research shows that increased screen time among teens aged 14 – 17 is linked to mental health problems.

A digital detox for young teens

Now imagine a group of ten 13 and 14-year-old girls agreeing to forgo all social media for two whole weeks!  This meant deleting the apps from their phones – no exceptions!

Would this be a parent’s dream come true, or a nightmare from dealing with withdrawal symptoms?

It really happened! Good Morning America’s technology correspondent Becky Worley designed the detox and found willing participants for this social experiment. The feedback from the girls was powerful:

  • “I fell asleep a lot quicker than usual so was better rested for the day.”
  • “I spent so much more time outside.”
  • “I was more focused during homework.”
  • “I wasn’t as stressed out and I was more productive.”
  • “I was able to enjoy my family and friends more . . .”

Would the girls recommend a digital detox to other kids? Absolutely!

While some of the girls felt left out of the loop at times, everyone agreed that the experience was worth it.

I realized how addictive social media can be and how unhealthy it can be.” Ella Noblin, Digital Detox participant

Watch the video of the girls – and their moms – to see what they learned!

So what would it be like if your kids and their friends tried this out? They might learn something life-changing!

For even more help, use our Family Guide to Using Mobile Devices to lead a family discussion! Get your free guide at the end of this post.

Related: When Should Kids Have Cell Phones? Savvy Parents Reveal Best Strategies

Your instinct was right: New research says there is a connection between social media use and well-being

Here is one parental acid test for digital consumption: How does social media time affect our kids’ well-being?

Research is giving us answers!

Social media and feeling down – it’s a thing

In a new, ground-breaking study, Dr. Melissa Hunt and her team at University of Pennsylvania have shown a causal link (not just a correlation or association) between loneliness, depression and the use of social media.

This is the first valid, experimental study that has considered three major social media apps – Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – and tracked the users objectively.

Some of the key findings:

  • All participants who started with varying levels of depression reported feeling better about themselves when limiting social media use.
  • Limiting social media use to 30 minutes per day “may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”

It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that reducing social media, which promised to help us connect with others, actually helps people feel less lonely and depressed.” Dr. Melissa G. Hunt et al. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression

Other take-aways for parents?

  • Social media is here to stay. But you can limit its damage by purposefully monitoring how much time kids spend on social media apps.
  • Find ways to reduce social comparison and instead connect with others in real life

Related: 3 Ways to Mentor Responsible Digital Kids

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digital detox

Tumblr finally addresses sexual exploitation in their app

You may not have noticed, but anyone who wanted to download Tumblr on their new iPhone or iPad the last couple of weeks couldn’t find it in the Apple App Store.

That’s because Apple audited the content in Tumblr and found images of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Apple has a zero-tolerance policy, choosing to pull any app with accessible child abuse images even when it may be hard to find.

Thank you Apple!

As you can imagine, not having the Tumblr app available for iPhone users to download would spell death to the company.

Apple finally got their attention.

Tumblr announced on Dec. 3 that explicit sexual content and nudity would be banned from the app.

Posts that contain adult content will no longer be allowed on Tumblr, and we’ve updated our Community Guidelines to reflect this policy change.

Bottom line: There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.

Tumblr has come under fire in the past for its high volume of pornography. TechCrunch reported that “adult” content is the top category that drives 20.53% of traffic Tumblr’s desktop site.

Alert: We are definitely NOT saying that Tumblr is now safe for your child or teen!

Check out this video to learn more about the app:

We ARE happy to see big, influential tech companies taking action to address the industry-wide problem of explicit and exploitative content.

Another hopeful sign this week is that Starbucks announced that they will block porn from their free Wi-Fi.

It’s encouraging to see that education and public pressure really can motivate change.

Reporting tips

If you see something anywhere online involving child sexual exploitation, please report it to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCME) at their CyberTipline.

digital detox“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Celine’s new CELINUNUNU fashion line for kids is a No! No! No!

Sadly, the sexualization of young girls in fashion is nothing new. But it seems that when you combine money, celebrity, and media, it can be a toxic mix.

Celine Dion has lent her megastar influence to a questionable kids clothing lineone that has been raising eyebrows across social media.

CELINUNUNU is a partnership between Celine and nununuworld, a super-trendy fashion company based in Israel. Celebrities including Gwen Stefani, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Garner, and others have all clothed their children from this line.

So what’s wrong with the clothing?

When you look at the Instagram feed for this company, you start to see a disturbing pattern of images that feature girls and boys in clothing or situations, combined with symbols and slogans, that put an exploitative spin on childhood. Notice the hand prints on their chests, the creepy skull in the frame, the girl with a paper bag over her head, and the shirt with the word “HO!” Why can’t we allow kids to be kids?
digital detox

Celebrities are major trend influencers. When they endorse these kinds of messages, they also normalize inappropriate marketing using minor kids.

The company’s mission statement claims:

Fashion has the power to shape people’s minds. Inspire your children to be free and find their own individuality through clothes.

We think these images are anything but kids expressing their individuality, and more about kids being used to express some very dark and twisted notions.

Why do we share this?

Cruel is NOT cool

Pornography and exploitation have trickled through and influenced many things in our culture now, even to perceptions of children. Together we can help each other be aware, push back against predatory culture, and be prepared to teach our kids to see the truth behind such toxic marketing.

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