Think About Whether You Need a Phone or Not

To have a cell phone or other cellular device is a common want, but often feels like a need among many children nowadays. Living in the digital age has greatly impacted the world with medical advancements, educational modules and applications, and helped millions in other aspects. Cellular devices are helpful, but they are not helping the development of children in the long run. Reducing usage and limiting access to cellular devices is the key to correcting the string of problems associated with the over usage of cellular devices.

Children should not own use cellular devices as they negatively affect sleep, education, and overall behavior.

Oftentimes what is seen on screens by children is overstimulating for their brains, thus making it disruptive to the circadian rhythm. In a clinical review on “the association between screen time and sleep outcomes among school-aged children and adolescents….[They] found that screen time is adversely associated with sleep outcomes… [and] with more time in spent front of screens, youth have less time available to sleep psychological and physiological arousal due to the content of the media” (Lauren Hale & Stanford Guan, 2014).

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This suggests that time, content, and light are the three factors that are causing adolescents and children's brains harm. When brains are exposed to bright images, loud sounds, and action-intensive scenes, that the brain’s level of activity increases. If a television show or movie is exciting, our brains will be excited or at least be vulnerable to feeling as such. Some claim that using their phones, specifically, apps on their phone that guide meditation or play soothing music, promotes and betters their sleep.

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In an article on the Australian parenting website Kidspot written by Jo Harris, the application Kids Sleep Doctor, which was created by a hospital in London is designed to help children sleep better by providing accurate advice after collecting data on each child’s sleep habits, is discussed.

The article summarizes the application's claims including that “When the app is in use it's been designed to emit minimal amounts of blue light,” which is usually the main problem when it comes to nighttime use of cellular devices. This design feature helps the case for cellular devices used by children. Apps that aren’t simply music or other relaxing noises, but teach their users are what makes one app better than another. The behavioral changes make the difference in children who struggle falling asleep. Despite the positives of this app, children can still become dependent on these apps and thus, increase their desire to use them when they’re awake. While some apps are helpful, the University of Illinois conducted a study on several of these apps: “out of 35 apps analyzed in the study, only five helped users recognize key behaviors proven to impair sleep” and according to Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, “an associate professor in applied health sciences and the study’s lead researcher,” “sleep apps are among the most downloaded health apps, but little is known about how well they affect ‘sleep hygiene” (Holly). This source says that although there are effective apps, more research should be done in terms of how sleep apps are helping its users by providing information to better their sleep behaviors i.e. not using screens before bedtime and reducing the intensity of the content in the evening hours.

The positive impacts of cellular exposure in children do not outweigh the negative impacts on behavior in the classroom setting. In the article, “Negative Effects of Using Technology in Today's Classroom” from It Still Works, written by Timothy Smithee, a main reason against technology is it “offers access to information, but it also offers many more distractions.” Distractions range from other applications on devices, websites, text messaging apps, and some students go so far as to “hack” the device to access these other applications, which is a greater distraction to their education. There is only so much monitoring a school can do when it comes to their students’ usage in the classroom and the larger the student body the less control, and probably enforcement the school will maintain. Others believe that cellular use is beneficial for learning in the classroom. In another study, 2 fifth grade classrooms, that integrated technology into the classroom, were researched and the results showed that “technology...sparks their [the children's] interest and assists them in their learning experiences.

Teachers reported that technology they used in the classroom has had a positive impact on both their instruction and student learning” (Muñoz). Technology is now sought after in children with the level of exposure to cellular usage they receive in this digital era so wanting to use it in school is not a big surprise. The results are positive outcomes in the classroom and are recognized by both students and teachers. However, if the results of “e-book enhancements [and other uses of cellular devices are considered, they] have also been shown to distract children’s attention from the story and to interfere with comprehension” (Hale and Guan). This is another example of the kind of distraction that can occur that is not even based in the student not being focused. The problem here is within the content itself and how it stimulates children and redirects their focus away from the educational aspects of said app or e-book.

The final detrimental effect of cellular use in children is their overall behavior with other family members, friends etc. A “field study” was conducted by Dr. Yulda T. Uhls, UCLA’s Assistant Adjunct Professor with a focus in Developmental Psychology, where a set of children, who had equal abilities when it came to their recognition of “nonverbal emotion cues” in others, split into two groups. One group continued with using cellular devices in their lives while the other took a five-day trip into nature without any cellular access. After returning from that trip, all the children took the same test, which determined how well they recognized “nonverbal emotion cues,” and the ones who took a trip away from technology performed better.

That study is a clear example of what removing cellular devices from children’s hands can do to benefit them. It showed that with less digital interaction, they could better interact with others as they could more easily understand others’ cues. Some people believe that using cell phones is simply the new way children communicate with other people. Social media has become a main source of community for many young people. My own sister, who is 12 years old, found a group of friends online several months back via an app. They liked to talk about wolves and the lore about them in this app. She was very happy speaking with these people because she found others who enjoyed this topic as much as she did. Social media offered to her and a group of people a place to essentially bond over their love of wolves. Despite having me and my other sister, who is 16, we just never shared that same interest of hers. Where these interactions can become dangerous as stated by a clinical report on the impact of social media on children, include “[the exposure to] inappropriate content; lack of understanding of online privacy issues; and outside influences of third-party advertising groups” (O’Keefe). Unfortunately, I can speak to this side too.

After my sister had been communicating with these people for several weeks, my mom found the messages and discovered that these other kids were attempting to deal with very heavy topics by leaning on each other via this app. Kids were struggling with depression and self-harm and the only resources they had were each other. My mother immediately spoke with my sister and told her not to engage with them as this group of children could not resolve their issues by simply speaking to other kids. My sister also became very secretive about her conversations and became distraught when her group of friends was discovered. Her behavior changed as she engaged less with them, but still was angry at our mother for preventing her from speaking with them and thus, interacted less with her. Social media did bring my sister a group of friends with a common love, but what became their main topic of discussion was too unhealthy, especially for a child.

The negative effects on children’s abilities to interact, sleep, and learn, are why children should not have their own cellular devices. In these cases, everything points to limiting children from accessing digital devices. However beneficial some uses of cellular devices are, children need human interaction in the classroom and solid sleep to truly develop as they are supposed to. Maybe with further studies it will become clear that if children are going to perform better in their lives, exposure to cellular devices in all aspects of their childhood needs to be reduced greatly especially in this digital era.

Updated: Dec 24, 2021
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Think About Whether You Need a Phone or Not essay
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