Kids are less addicted to mobile phones than they are fearful of 'missing out', expert says
How many times a day do most people check their phones? Dozens, hundreds? And what about their kids?
A study conducted by Common Sense Media found that 50 per cent of teens "feel addicted" to mobile devices, and 59 per cent of their parents agree. It's a growing concern that has even prompted two of Apple's major investors, CalSTERS and Jana Partners, to urge the tech giant to take action.
Ana Homayoun, author of "Social Media Wellness," said it's not so much that the phone is addictive, it's really the applications on the phone and how it's being used.
"When we think about social media, so much of it is created on this feedback loop of notifications. They want to promote engagement," Homayoun told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.
She added, "They create this system where you always want to be online. And it can create this fear of missing out if we're not online. This happens for adults as well as kids."
It raises the question of what age is the right time for a child to receive a smartphone. According to a study conducted by Pew Research, 73 per cent of teens age 13-17 have smartphones, including 68 per cent of 13-14 years old.
Homayoun said the right age really varies, depending on the kid and the family situation. However, she said it's best to introduce phones incrementally.
"More parents are giving their kids their old smartphone as a hand me down, and I recommend incremental usage," she told CNBC. "Give them a flip phone first, and only use it during certain times, so that you're giving and establishing good habits."
Homayoun said she finds more parents are waiting until the 8th or 9th grade before giving their child a smartphone. For younger children, Homayoun recommended parents give them a flip phone to use solely for emergencies, since "payphones aren't available like they were 20 or 30 years ago."
When parents do give their child a smartphone, Homayoun has several recommendations for the parents that include:
- Establish certain times of the day/week when kids are not allowed on phone;
- Keep phones out of the bedroom at night;
- Don't use the phone as an alarm clock, and;
- Use apps to help monitor usage such as OurPact or Circle
"Social media isn't good or bad, it's a new tool for communication," Homayoun said. "But, what is a problem is that we as adults don't fully speak the language that kids are speaking, and we need to."
This article was first published on CNBC