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Smartphones for Teens 101

Are you considering buying your teen a Smartphone?

Are you considering buying your teen a Smartphone? Does your teen insist he or she is the only one without one? Well, according to the research he or she may be half-way right... The Pew Research and American Life Project’s “Teens and Technology 2013” study found most US teens own a cell phone and about half of those cells are in fact Smartphones. The study also found:

  • ·78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That is up 23% from 2011.
  • ·23% of teens have a tablet computer(a level comparable to the general adult population).
  • ·95% of teens use the internet.
  • ·93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.
  • ·71% of teens with home computer access say the computer they use most often is one they share with other family members.
  • ·74% of teens say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally.
  • ·25% of teens are “cell-mostly” internet users, who say they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. Only 15% of adults reported using their “cell-mostly" to go online.

It's amazing how far we've come over the years! Even more amazing is our dependency on technology…which brings us back to the original question: Are you thinking about taking the plunge and purchasing your teen a Smartphone? With the season of gift giving in full swing, many parents are contemplating adding another phone and number to their current contract. But before you head off to the nearest phone provider, there are some things that you may want to consider before buying that little electronic contraption. Here are some key things to know and think about before making the purchase:

1. Know the product and make sure your teen is ready for it.

First, research the type of phone you are going to buy. Know the product, features and what it's capable of doing. WhileSmartphones may be the "in" thing, not all teens are ready for the responsibility that comes with owning one. Ask yourself, "is my teen ready to navigate the internet, download apps, stream or upload music/movies, use social networking sites, visit chat rooms, uploadvideos, or share "selfies"?" Some younger teens, aka tweens, may not be ready to be turned loose to roam virtually free. So knowing the product, controls and family security plans will come in handy as you make your decisions.

2. Set expectations and develop a contract.

Contracts are a great way to lay out your rules, so everyone's on board and knows ahead of time what is expected. It's good for you and your teen to be on the same page with the rules and regulations to using their newdevice. Below are some things to include and consider when you write the contract:

1. You own the cell phone if you purchased it. So, really the phone is more of a loan than a gift. If the phone is misused you can repo it at any time.

2. Ensure that you approve any apps before they are downloaded. Additionally, make sure that you have all passwords to all accounts.

3. Be sure to address online unkindness and cyberbullying. The golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies equally as well in the cyber world as it does in face-to-face encounters. Things that can't be said to someone's face shouldn't be shared electronically. The phone is not a method to being unkind, hurtful or deceptive to another person; rather, it is a mode of communication and information. More about digital kindness in item number 3.

4. Eyes up more than down. The world doesn't rotate around a screen. If the phone begins to consume the majority of your teen's time then it's time to unplug and unwind.

5. Don't forget to "talk". Teens use texting, snapchatting, instagramming and other abbreviated forms of communication a lot. However, they still need to have face-to-face interaction. Face-to-face or verbal communication is essential in how we relate to one another and it's a great check and balance with what is and is not acceptable with peers. If electronic communication oversteps the speaking to another person, then an intervention needs to be considered.

6. The phone is not attached to the body. I have seen too many teens act as though their life was in ruins when their phone was taken from them. Don't let your teen become overly attached to a phone.

7. Exercise good judgment and use manners in public places. For example, there is a time and place for phones to be on and a place for them to be silenced. In public places such as classrooms, church, restaurants, movies, plays, or when speaking face-to-face with someone, it is unkind and rude to be texting or answering calls.

8. Risqué photos of any sort that display sexually graphic material will NOT be permitted. The consequences of sexting and getting publically caught will far exceed those at home. Sexting can have detrimental effects on your teen's life. Any sexual photo your teen receives needs to be deleted immediately. Equally, your teen should never share sexual photos of his or herself or others. In many states sexting with a minor is an illegal activity.

9. The phone gets shut down every night at a specified time. It does not remain in the bedroom after the time it is shutdown. Having a charging station that is centrally located in the house is a great idea.

3. Addressing digital unkindness and cyberbullying.

Youth can use mobile phones to bully or harass others. With approximately25 percent of the young people admitting to experiencing or taking part in cyberbullying, it's important to discuss online safety. Oftentimes teens become desensitized to others’ feelings when they are texting or communicating through electronic messaging. It's important to encourage your teen to think before he or she posts anything, especially when they are angry or hurt. Texting or typing something when angry can result in doing or saying things that are later regretted.

4. Encourage good judgment with mobile social networking.

Smartphones allow teens to access their social media sites, upload pictures and post comments instantaneously. Teens can also snap pics and capture moments via videoat any time and any place. Therefore privacy is of utmost importance.

5. Set the no Texting/Calling/Emailing/Internet Searching while driving:

5. Set the no Texting/Calling/Emailing/Internet Searching while driving:

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.Unfortunately, while surveys report that 97% of teens admit that texting while driving is dangerous, they still do it. A whopping 43% of teens admit to texting while driving. Research reports that teens admit that texting is their number one driving distraction. What's most troubling is that 77% of teens have admitted to watching their parent’s text and drive. Texting and driving is a dangerous trend - it's leading to life-altering injuries and death. No text is worth one’s life. Whatever it can wait.

Did you know that texting while driving is to blame for...?

  • 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
  • 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
  • 11 teen deaths every day – Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts

Did you know that texting while driving...?

  • Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time? That's like traveling the length of a football field while going 55 miles per hour. – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
  • Slows your brake reaction speed by 18%? – Human Factors & Ergonomics Society

6. If in doubt use parental controls.

Not quite sure your child is ready for all of this responsibility? Many providers, for a minimal fee, offer parental control options. Check with your provider about their family protection plans.

In summary, purchasing a Smartphone for your teen is a big decision. Make sure that you’ve done your research so you can feel secure in your decision.

More from Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.
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More from Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.
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