The proliferation of smartphones has happened at such a rate that now most people own one. By most people, that’s just about anyone walking and talking from 10-year-olds on up. According to techcrunch.com, the average kid owns his first smartphone by age 10, and that’s a problem.
The problem over electronic devices dates back to the popularity of the Atari 2600 in the late 70s. Then, there was the question as to how often, and for how long, to allow your child to sit in front of the television. The issue escalated once the games grew in sophistication, with enhanced graphics and sometimes questionable storylines. The evolutionary track for that progress, however, spanned decades. With gaming held exclusively to the family television, the activity was clearly in sight of any watchful parent.
It’s that kind of experience most of us parents had as a child. Our game systems required hijacking the television. For us to use it, most of us asked permission. Mom and dad dictated how long we could play, and promptly kicked us back outside. There was nothing to get into. Today, however, our kids have access to the outside world that we didn’t have.
Let’s think for a second. Could you imagine having access to social media and world news while we were kids during the height of the Cold War? Outside of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the threat of nuclear war was never worse than during the Reagan administration. Those of us who grew up in that time period was only slightly aware of the dangers. We didn’t have detailed information on how heated international relations were, or how thorough the destruction would have been had bombs been dropped on us. Today, you can ask Siri or Aleska and you’re sure to find out.
But, the real danger for kids owning smartphones today is social media. Look at how social media has plagued us as adults in recent years. No question is safe from being turned into a political debate between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Never mind the fact that you were looking for a restaurant recommendation. It’s reminiscent of our adolescent years, were we ran within our own social cliques and stayed away from anyone else intended to do us harm. That vigilant attention to our own self preservation was limited between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., the hours in which we had class. After that, once we got home, we could retreat into the sanctuary of our bedroom. But, that’s not the case today. That phone is just another conduit for bullies to gain access to our children; at anytime and from anywhere. And, that’s from the little devils of which we know, let’s try not to focus too much on the strangers and sexual predators who lurk on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and elsewhere.
On second thought, let’s do focus on all of this. That’s what one local woman wants to do. Our front page features sheds light on Marietta Angelotti, who wants all of us to start talking about how we manage the use of smartphones and other electronic devices. There are a lot of serious ramifications associated with too much use, ranging from anti-social behavior to bouts of depression and suicide.
Social media truly has shown itself to be ugly more often than not in recent years. There’s little reason for adults to subject themselves to such immature behavior, and we don’t see much reason for our children and young adults to have to deal with it either.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.