Is your teen pestering you to buy them a mobile phone for their birthday? Or are you considering giving a mobile phone to your teen for security purposes? Although it may be the right decision, have you considered the adverse effects of mobile phones on teenagers and young people? If no, you may want to read this post.
Seeing teens standing together but totally ignoring each other is a common sight these days. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 78% of teens aged between 12 and 17 have mobile phones (1). And they are not just using it to call their parents. One in four teens has access to the Internet, far more than adults. So, is a cell phone a good thing for teens? What are the negative effects of cell phones on teenagers? Read on to find the answer.
Effects Of Mobile Phones On Teenagers
There is no doubt that a mobile phone is a handy tool. It eases communication with colleagues, friends, and relatives. But every technology that provides such benefits comes with a set of negative impacts. The impact of mobile phones on youth and society is immense. It is this area that requires attention when you are giving your teen a cell phone. Here’s how cell phones affect teenagers.
1.Teen tendonitis (TTT)
Excess messaging can lead to Teen Tendonitis (TTT). It causes pain in the hands, back, and neck due to poor posture. According to a five-year cohort study, excessive cell phone usage is known to result in musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis and first carpometacarpal arthritis in the forearm and thumb (2).
Having a cell phone will tempt your teen to spend all day talking or texting instead of doing productive things. Studies have proven that teens who spend too much of their time with their cell phones are more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. Research has also found that excessive use of smartphones may result in an increased risk of mental health problems (3).
3. Sleep loss
Most teens keep their cell phones nearby while sleeping to respond to texts and calls and remain reachable around the clock. This may lead to sleep interruption and disruption. Studies have found that teenagers who use cellphones after the lights out experienced increased tiredness. Also, college students who use cell phones after the onset of sleep are reported to be awake an extra 46 minutes per week (4).
Teens tend to attend calls and text while driving, which is proven to be dangerous. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens are more likely to be distracted than drivers of any other age (5). So, using a cell phone while driving should be a strict no.
Relying on texting as a primary mode of communication can increase anxiety in teens. Texting is instantly gratifying, but it also produces anxiety. The instant reply by a friend can bring joy and elation. But in case of delayed response or no response, this same pleasure can turn into disappointment. Also, cell phone addiction can turn into an obsession to check messages and reply immediately. It may also increase anxiety by creating an illusion that they had received a message even when there was no message, making them frequently check their phones (3).
6. Risk of cancer
Although there’s no clear evidence of the relationship between cell phone use and cancer, there are some statistically significant associations in some people. Data collected from five European countries have shown an increased risk of acoustic neuroma in those who used a cell phone for ten or more years (6).
Although there is no clear research supporting the risk of cancer and cell phone usage, it is said to have a broad range of health effects.
According to a study conducted on 13–18-year-olds by Cox Communications, 15% of children had been cyberbullied online, 10% had been cyberbullied by cell phone, and 5% had cyberbullied another person through a cell phone.
According to a survey, cyberbullying makes teenagers sad and unwilling to attend school. This study has also found that children who are cyberbullied have a higher risk of psychosomatic problems, such as frequent headaches, problems falling asleep, a higher rate of anxiety, and depression(7).
Cyberbullying is much more difficult to identify than physical bullying as it tends to be more invisible. Also, the perpetrators can hide behind the anonymity offered by the internet.
8. False prestige
The latest developments in cell phones have made it easy for teenagers to access any information. Most of the things projected on social media and the Internet may not be accurate, but teenagers who are naive (at their age) might take them seriously and get influenced. This might lead them to live in a fantasy world and develop false prestige. Some may also resort to crimes to fulfill their fantasies.
Constant usage of cell phones may also cause obesity in teenagers. According to a study conducted by Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, teens who spend more hours a day on cell phones are more likely to become obese. The study further says that teens who spend more than five hours a day in front of screens are 43% more likely to get less sleep or exercise, resulting in obesity (8).
10. Vision problems
Increased use of cell phones is said to cause vision problems in teenagers. As per a study conducted on 30 medical students, 83% of them were found to have cell phone vision syndrome. The symptoms include stress, redness, burning sensation, blurred vision, and dry eyes (9).
Excessive usage of cell phones surpasses their usefulness and creates new problems in teenagers. While you may not stop your teenager from using a cell phone, it is possible to limit the usage by establishing some ground rules.
Before giving a cell phone to your teenager, make sure they are aware of the points below.
Tips On Safe Usage Of Cell Phones For Teenagers
Cell phones are not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. So, you need to teach your teens about mobile phone safety and how to use it responsibly. They also need to have agreed boundaries for mobile phone usage. Here are some ways to avoid the adverse effects of cellphones on teenagers:
- Negotiate with your teen on what should be the acceptable amount of time and money spent on cell phones.
- Tell them to curb their impulse of replying to texts instantly.
- Ask them to turn off their cell phone while driving.
- Ask them to turn off their cellphone before going off to sleep to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Teach your teen that short to moderate conversations on cell phones might help in decreasing the ill effects to some extent. Encourage them to limit conversations to not more than 20 minutes a day.
- Encourage installation of apps, which track daily phone use. This enables the user to keep a track of actual phone usage per day.
- Opt for a monthly plan that gives a structure for how many call minutes and text messages are available. If you are paying the bill, you can also have access to the mobile phone records, which will help you track how often your teen calls and sends messages and to which numbers.
- Ensure you set a good example by limiting your cell phone usage, as children tend to imitate or learn things more from parents.
- Establish a rule that the usage of cell phones is restricted at least one hour before sleep.
- Also, make sure your teenager keeps their cell phone away during meals or family gatherings.
- Ensure your children spend some time daily in physical activities such as running, playing, or walking. Encourage them to leave their cell phone behind while doing such activities.
It is great to be a part of the growing technological world, and everyone should enjoy its benefits, including teens, but in moderation. Do not let technology take away the happiness of playing outside and spending time with family. Cell phones can be quite useful when used in moderation.
2. Ewa Gustafsson, et al.; Texting on mobile phones and musculoskeletal disorders in young adults: A five-year cohort study; Applied Ergonomics (2016).
3. Sehar Shoukat; Cell phone addiction and psychological and physiological health in adolescents; EXCLI Journal (2019).
4. Sue K. Adams, Jennifer F. Daly, and Desireé N. Williford; Adolescent Sleep and Cellular Phone Use: Recent Trends and Implications for Research; Health Service Insights (2013).
5. Distracted Driving; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
6. Cell Phones and Cancer Risk; National Cancer Institute
7. Cyberbullying; U.S Department of Health and Human Science
8. Smartphone, tablet use linked with obesity in teens; Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health
9. Aswitha Priya Sadagopan, et al.; Prevalence of Smartphone Users at Risk for Developing Cell Phone Vision Syndrome among College Students; Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy (2017).
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