Use of Electronic Devices in Childhood and Adolescence: Guidelines from Dr. Joel Lampert

 

Have questions about what electronic devices are appropriate for what ages, and in what amounts? Our own Behavioral Health Consultant, Joel Lampert PsyD shares some guidelines that you may find helpful.

Babies born in 1993 became the first generation to grow up with a consistent electronic presence. They have never known a world without computers, cell phones, video games and other technological wonders. As smartphones and other devices continue to gain popularity, parents increasingly have to make decisions related to if and/or when they should allow their children to have these items. Childhood Health Associates of Salem providers are frequently asked about “the right age” for children to get their first cell phone, gaming system or other device. Parents also have questions about safety concerns that come along with increased exposure to the online world. Here are some considerations and recommendations:

Facts:

  • The more technology you are exposed to, the more difficult it can be to concentrate

  • Today’s young people are likely to be involved in many social media applications such as texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Whisper, Tinder, Klout, Kiip and others

  • Gaming addiction and binge-watching have become more common

  • Approximately one third of teen drivers text or email while driving

  • The average age of first exposure to pornography is eight (8) years old

  • Girls send more than 80 texts/day; Boys send more than 50 texts/day

  • Cell phone use is increasingly common

    • 31% of children aged 8-10yrs have cell phones

    • 69% of children aged 11-14yrs have cell phones

    • 85% of children aged 14-17yrs have cell phones

  • Many user agreements for social media and other sites require that you agree they will “own” materials posted to their sites, even if copies are removed from pages; those materials can then be used for other purposes without further consent

  • Any information posted to the internet should be considered permanent and likely will become public

  • Privacy settings can be confusing and change frequently

  • We often feel safe using the internet because it feels like we are in control and can stop at any time or chat online without consequences; however, it is important to keep in mind that people often portray themselves to be someone else online and unsafe content is only a click away

Recommendations:

  • Parents and children/teens should openly discuss digital safety

    • what information to share/not share

    • what sites to use/not use

    • when parents will access a child’s content/sites, texts, etc. and when they won’t

  • Limit use of all electronics and other screen time to no more than two hours per day

  • Consider an “electronics free” hour or a “digital free day” to increase interactions with family off-line

  • Eat meals together without electronic interference by turning off cell phones off during meal time

  • Parents and children need to decide what are appropriate boundaries. Examples:

    • parents may review social media accounts and retain passwords

    • parents may review text messaging

    • consider limiting types of gaming and movies/tv shows by age group

  • Parents need to model appropriate digital use. Examples:

    • do not use electronics while driving

    • do not answer the phone during meals or important events, etc.

    • avoid devices when having face to face conversations

  • Do not allow use of electronics (including television) for any child under the age of two years

    • consider moving televisions, computers and other commonly used technology to spaces in your home that are not common areas

    • do not allow your children to use your cell phones or other handheld technology

    • incorporate daily time to read, play games and engage in other activities as a family and individually

  • Consider use of internet filters

  • Eliminate electronics from bedrooms, especially if you have trouble with sleep

  • Parents should investigate platforms their children are using

  • Be conscious of trends in technology and new apps that become popular

Questions to ask to help you decide when your child is ready for his/her own device:

  • Is he/she trustworthy?

  • Does he/she lose things?

  • Can he/she use the device safely and responsibly?

  • Will he/she abide by the parent/child agreements about having the device?

  • Does he/she need the device for safety reasons?

  • What does he/she really need--e.g., basic phone vs smart phone?

  • Who pays any bills associated with the device--if child pays all or a portion of the bill does that change any parent/child agreements?

  • Will you and your child sign a contract for use of electronics that parents will be able to reinforce?

    • What happens if there is an overage for data/time/etc.--who pays the bill?

    • When does usage of technology get restricted?

    • When can usage of technology be increased?

    • How do we address technology that costs money on a case-by-case basis such as pay-to-play games or websites?

  • Try to find some common ground to be able to go online together in an effort to model using the internet safely: e.g., plan a family activity, engage in family genealogy, or play an online game together.

As always, if you have any questions, would like to discuss anything in this article, or need any assistance talking with your child, teen or spouse about how to navigate the digital world please schedule an appointment with the Behavior Health team at Childhood Health Associates of Salem at (503) 364-2181