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Thoughts about Teens and Cell Phones

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when two kids are together, they’re often on their own cell phones?  They may be texting or snapping with each other, or they may be communicating with one or many other people who aren’t even there.  Sometimes one teen will show their friend something that’s on their phone, and other times they’ll make comments here and there as they continue doing their own thing on their own phone. 

If you think about it, doesn’t this remind you of when toddlers or preschoolers are playing?  They typically play with their own toys right next to each other…  they may say “hey look at this” to one another from time to time…  or they may look at one another to see what the other is doing.  Developmentally, this is appropriate play for this age group—it’s called parallel play. 

Let’s look at these two scenarios and see how similar they are.  Our teens were once toddlers and preschoolers, and they passed through this stage of parallel play back then.  As kids develop through elementary school years, they learn to play together interact together, be interested in one another and the activity.  Developmentally, this type of interaction style is appropriate for older kids and adults—it’s called cooperative play.    

But then the cell phone comes along… and it seems to interrupt or disrupt interactive communication and play and send our teens back to the more immature style of parallel play.  What happened to interacting with one another?  Talking to one another?  Knowing what to talk about, when to talk, the give-and-take of conversation?

So, what do we do as parents?  One intervention is to limit cell phone use and encourage interactive verbal communication with the person you’re with.  The other night, my daughter had her friend over.  My daughter didn’t have her phone, while her friend had hers.  So, guess what?  They both interacted together with the one cell phone!  I heard laughter, talking to one another, conversation with one another.  It was a beautiful sight!  One thing I didn’t hear (which was a pleasant surprise)… was complaining.  One possible intervention to keep our kids from spending too much time on social media.

I’ll continue this discussion in the near future.

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