An irreverent look at kids and smartphones

by 8-18 Media

Smart kids, dumb phones
Have you ever wondered what the definition of a smartphone is? You could believe it’s a small electronic device attached to a teenager. In some cases, that might not be far from the truth.
Many people say kids are addicted to their smartphones. The fear is these kids may not look away from the tiny screens long enough to experience the world around them.
The real definition of a smartphone is a cell phone with more high tech and computer features than a regular cell phone.

Calling all smartphone abusers
Kids often want a smartphone rather than a normal cell phone because there is more entertainment potential, and they can connect with friends on Facebook and other applications. They also can get Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) on a smartphone in more and more places, saving data service costs.
Ian Parkkonen, eleven, of Marquette, has a smartphone, and feels it is a good tool for passing time.
“When you play games, sometimes it feels like time goes by fast,” he said. “If you’re somewhere boring, you could play on your iPhone.”
Perry Mesloh, eleven, of Marquette, said smartphones can be for more than just entertainment.
“Well, they’re handy — if someone doesn’t know a word, you can just type it in and the Webster app will give a definition,” he said. “If you are using an Apple device, there’s literally an app for everything you could possibly want.”
Kenzie Johns, fourteen, of Negaunee, pointed out you also can use your smartphone for more basic reasons.
“For example, you can call someone if you’re somewhere and have an emergency,” she said.

Instant face snapping
Last year, the website niche.com did a survey of seven thousand high school graduates, showing what they did on their “magic buzzy boxes.”
The top three apps listed were Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Snapchat is a photo messaging service with a twist — the photo and caption only shows on your phone for around ten seconds, so it is gone in a “snap.” Instagram is a photo sharing service. You choose who views your pictures. The top site was Facebook, where people can read and see what others are up to.
Johns apparently agrees with the survey about what she uses most.
“Go on Facebook,” Johns said without hesitating.
Alyssa Bjork, fifteen, of Ishpeming said she and her friends mainly use some of the top sites, too.
“I know friends who are constantly on Snapchat and Facebook,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ethan Laitinen, fifteen, of Ishpeming, does something entirely different with his smartphone, but is likely pretty common as well.
“I either text or play lots of games — ‘Clash of Clans’,” he said.

1,000 texts a day…really!?
Some kids really give their thumbs a workout while keeping in touch with their friends and family. Johns is one of those kids, judging by the number of texts she sends. “A day,” she laughed, “probably over a thousand.”
Mason Brady, twelve, of Marquette, said many of his friends use their smartphones way too much.
“Oh yeah, a lot of them,” he said. “That’s because they feel like they have to be on it 24/7 to be ‘up with the game.’”
Brady admits he would like a smartphone, but thinks he probably would use it too much as well.
“I mean sure, maybe I’d like one, but I’d probably spend way too much time on it and that’s hours out of my week,” he said. “I admit, I already spend way too much time on my iPod, so the last thing I need is to be able to access YouTube anywhere.”
Kelsey Bolt is one of the librarians at the Ishpeming Carnegie Library, and in her opinion there are plenty of kids who do not use smartphones as much as people think.
“I feel it’s a little bit of a myth that kids can’t pry themselves away from their phones,” she said. “I mean we get kids in [the library] all the time, both really young and a little bit older, who don’t ever seem to break our cell phone policy rules here at the library, and they’re interacting with their friends and they’re checking out books and doing things that don’t necessarily need them to be connected. I think that’s pretty cool.”

1501_8-18Broken phones are as common as clumsy people
Sometimes kids accidently — or purposely — break them. All kids interviewed for this story had broken their phone at least once — sometimes twice. So it’s a topic that probably should be discussed…especially when handing teens a several-hundred-dollar electronic device.
Bjork has found at least two ways to damage her phone.
“I was talking to my friends and it slipped out of my hand and the screen shattered, but luckily I had a protector on it to hold it together,” she said. “Another time, I left it in my jeans and it went through the wash.”
Mesloh didn’t even get a chance to damage his phone; he lost it.
“I had an iPhone4. It got stolen. I think I had it in a hockey game, and it must have fallen out of my pocket and I think someone might have just snatched it,” he said.
There is a reason why phone manufacturers are starting to make waterproof phones. Parkkonen found out the hard way it’s because they aren’t very good swimmers.
“I did have an iPhone 3G, and I dropped it at Presque Isle — you know where it has a fence and says do not cross?” he said. “I was messaging my sister and I dropped it in the lake. It was brand new.”

Nah nah…I’m telling mom!
Most people probably have heard stories about ways kids and teens have “misused” or gotten in trouble for using their smartphones in inappropriate ways.
Most also have heard stories about everything from cyberbullying to huge phone bills for smartphone use. In fact, some parents in the U.S. sued Apple because the company didn’t tell parents kids could buy games easily on their smartphones —which meant high phone bills.
So of course you’d guess most parents have given their children guidelines about how to use their smartphones…right?
Parents need to pay attention for sure, but only they know how far they can trust their child in the face of peer pressure.
Many parents these days are taking phones away as a form of punishment…sort of hitting ’em where it hurts. Bjork said her mother uses that approach.
“When I do get grounded for something, usually that’s the first thing they take away,” she said.
Yahoo Tech columnist Dan Tynan highlighted seven smart things parents can do concerning a child’s smartphone.
• Don’t let them wing it. It’s essentially a high-tech computer…what could go wrong?
• Don’t trust memory…write down the rules.
• Go NSA on them. Get monitoring apps to keep track of what they are up to with their phone.
• Regularly scan texts for signs of trouble.
• Buy a protective, waterproof case. Who cares if they don’t like it…kids break phones…it’s what they do.
• Don’t pay for everything. Make them pay (somehow) for repairs and data costs over a predetermined limit.
• Set a good example. Don’t want your kids addicted to their smartphone…don’t be addicted yourself.
It’s up to young smartphone users, and their parents, to determine whether these little electronic devices, seemingly stuck to teenagers, are “smart” or “dumb.”

Editor’s note: This story was written by Tia Platteboze, 18; Abby Pierce, 15; Amanda Matznick, 14; Emilee Solka, 14; Calli Solka, 12; Taylor Stanaway, 11; Brandon O’Brien, 11 and Jadynn Clement, 11.

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