Smartphones for Kids NOT Such a Good Idea
Much harm comes to young teens via the internet
Now that the worldwide pandemic is hopefully winding down, I would like to put my head in the sand and move on with life like many of us.
Unfortunately, there is another pandemic happening that has gotten little attention. This pandemic involves the children of this generation and the next. Long before COVID hit, clinicians around the country, trained in trauma and sexual addiction, have been speaking out against children engaging in social media and technology in ways that we have been allowing them to be used. We have been abusing technology, and it’s leading to disaster.
The teen suicide rate has increased 76% in the past 10 years. Self-harm has increased 200%. Ninety percent of teens have viewed hardcore pornography by 18, with their earliest viewing being somewhere around 7 years old on average. Eighty-six percent of this pornography is extremely violent toward both men and women. Teens and young adults are struggling with anxiety disorders, body dysmorphia and pornography addiction at an alarming rate.
I always say when you give a boy a smartphone, he will become addicted to gaming and abusive porn, and when you give a girl a smartphone, they will find selfloathing and be bullied at an alarming rate through social media abuse. These things have significant consequences to our teens’ mental health and lead to tragedy in their young adult lives.
The number one buyer of Viagra is young adults because they are struggling with erectile dysfunction at an earlier age due to porn addiction. They cannot keep an erection due to the immersive and subversive ways they have used technology over the past decade. The self-harm and anxiety in young girls are due to their exposure and obsession with social media. They measure their bodies and lives according to other people’s edited, filtered and fake highlight reels, and it is changing the way they see themselves and the world.
Tik Tok has millions of videos of teens dancing and grinding with little to no clothes on and can be viewed privately by adults worldwide. This is a form of child pornography, and yet we are becoming increasingly desensitized to it. For the first time in history, strangers can send a private message to your child, in your home, right next to you, and you would never know. Research shows that 70% of teens have been solicited online, and over 50% of them answer.
The smartphone and social media have changed the landscape of our country for better and worse for adults, but I only see the worse for children. The cons far outweigh the pros. Part of the problem is that we never had the time to weigh the benefits or costs. What was a razor phone one night became an unlimited, app-filled minefield in an instant.
As adults, we did not get training, understand the consequences, or protect our most vulnerable because we did not know what we were getting into. We unassumingly have allowed these things to happen. The companies that produce these devices and products state that they won’t allow their children to use them, so why do we?
Now just a decade or so later, we are seeing the overwhelming consequences for our children. I do believe that we still have a chance to turn this all around. I think that we can make some hard and fast shifts and still save the next generation from the pain and suffering that the current 12- to 18-yearolds are going through, but it starts with the adults.
There are three A’s that keep these problems going that we can attack and stop.
Access: They can get on whenever and however much they want.
Affordability: It’s free monetarily, physically and emotionally. The time is unlimited and doesn’t cost a thing. They see technology, apps and social media as an entitlement instead of something to be earned and deserved.
Accountability: No one is watching them, teaching them or giving them consequences for their behavior online.
Here is what you can do to help: We have to limit their access with protective apps, monitoring and limit their exposure based on age and maturity. We have to make them earn their smartphone and screen time usage as we would their driver’s license. Allowing a young child access to the internet, social media or texting without training, supervision and education is the equivalent of letting a child get drunk and take the car for a ride around town. A wreck is guaranteed to happen, and someone is going to get extremely hurt.
I pray and hope that we as adults can wake up from our slumber and our own technology addictions to save this next generation. Right now, only 17% of parents have rules for devices, and 60% of parents are unaware of what their children are actually viewing online and what they are being exposed to.
Here are some more resources to look into: A few programs like Wait until 8, Covenant Eyes, Pure Desire Ministries and Protect Young Eyes are trying to fight this battle with resources and education for parents. The website Culture Reframed has tons of free resources as well. Fight the New Drug is another wonderful organization to follow.
If you are local, you can reach out to our practice and get help anytime. We have eight clinicians trained in technology and sexual addiction issues that could help treat your family’s specific needs or struggle – without judgment or shame. We can provide training for parents, churches, businesses or whoever needs it on specific needs or cultural issues.
You are not alone in the overwhelming new world, but you must reach out for help to change the conversation and make a lasting impact. We must fight this together as a community, or I fear that the next decade will only be worse for our children. For the sake of these innocent kids, let’s make a change!
For more resources, check out our podcast, “Asking Why with Clint Davis,” Episodes 27 and 28, on YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts online. There are slides and resources listed for free. Visit our website www.clintdaviscounseling.com and go to the podcast tab or book a speaker or therapist for more help and education.
Clint Davis MS, LPC, CCTP, CSAT, CCTP, EMDR provider, director of recovery for the Hub:Urban Ministries. Feel free to give us a call at 318-562-6903, or visit us at www.clintdaviscounseling.com.