My 13-year-old son has had a cell phone since he was 11. He worked hard and earned the money to pay for it himself. He was extremely proud and felt as important as we all do when we get something shiny and new.
Being that this was my first child with a cell phone, I was new to the whole world of social media and tweens. I had no idea what Musical.ly or Snapchat were, but I had to figure them out quickly.
I soon learned we had to set some hard rules with his cell phone use, including no phone behind closed doors and limited usage. Technology can feel like a security blanket for a lot of adults and kids; he was no exception. It’s just too easy to check out of real life and check in to your phone instead. I’m certainly guilty of it.
I didn’t realize how much the push notifications would suck him in. As a child who liked to be outside and ride his bike, ski, and play ball, I figured he would soon tire of his phone and want to go back to his normal activities, but it was just the opposite. Spending time online was all he wanted to do, so I set a two-hour a day rule on his phone.
As he’s gotten older, I’ve had to get more involved in monitoring it. He’s aware of the social media world and Snapchat is his favorite way to communicate with friends. His usage isn’t like it was when he first got his phone and all he was interested in were videos about cars and working out on YouTube. He’s lost interest in video games now that girls are in the picture and it’s a whole different set of worries and responsibilities — for both of us
I recently took away his cell phone for a few weeks as punishment. He was really upset at first and figured the next few weeks would be hell, but to my surprise after the first few hours, he seemed to perk up.
The day after that, I noticed something else happen: he was much more animated, engaged with the family, and talkative than he had been in almost a year. Without his cell phone, he opened up and honestly seemed happier than he’s been in a long time. Of course, I didn’t point that out to him, lest ruining his new lease on life by reminding him life without a cell phone might be a good thing.
When the phone had been gone for a week, he actually told me he felt happier without it. I knew exactly what he meant. The times I’ve stepped away from my phone or computer for the day, I definitely feel reconnected to reality, and in a better mood. The fact he noticed this on his own was gold.
It has been proven too much time on our phones or computers can be linked to depression. According to PsychGuides.com, warning signs of teen cell phone addition include irritability, fatigue, depression, loss of interest in activities they used to find enjoyable, and difficulties paying attention.
I wouldn’t say my son was depressed when he had regular access to his phone, but he was quieter and more irritable. There were times I would take his phone away for the day and he would almost panic (which was why I was dreading the few weeks without it).
Seeing him happier and connected when the phone was gone was alarming to me. I had figured a lot of his moodiness and quiet behavior was because of his age and hormones, but I would say almost half of it was most definitely linked to phone usage.
He said it felt hard at first, like maybe he was missing out on something, but soon enjoyed his life better without the anxiety of feeling like he always had to check in.
When I give him his phone back, we are going to limit daily usage even more and have days where he isn’t allowed to be on it at all. I haven’t told him this yet, but when I do, I’m hoping he’ll comply without complaint.
Of course, I’m ready to bring up the conversation about how he feels happier without it if he resists these new rules. After all, he said it himself and he can’t argue with that!