Parents, stop blaming the phone


By Jui Bhatia, Co-Opinion Editor

We’ve all heard complaints about our use of technology, either in the form of a passive aggressive suggestion to maybe “get off that phone and interact with the real world,” or in the form of a lecture telling us how we’re “addicted to the screens.” The thought process behind these claims is reasonable; they genuinely do come from a place of concern, but it is the false narrative and hypocrisy behind these claims, as well as the unreasonable amount of things we are told are because of the phone, that make it tough for teenagers to take this advice seriously.

According to a 2020 study by the Pew Research Center, nearly 75% of parents surveyed felt that the harms of technology outweigh the benefits. Yet, a 2014 Boston Medical Center study that observed the behavior of parents in front of their kids found that 40 of the 55 parents observed used their phones during meals and while spending time with their kids. Even if the parents picked up their phone to do something they considered urgent or important, such as reply to an email or pick up a call about work, it showed the children that this was acceptable behavior.

Especially for children under the age of 10, who mainly only interact with their family, the technology usage around them conditions them to want to also take part in that activity. This makes it likely that when the child does get a phone, they will want to use it often and without restrictions. With such a widespread use of technology, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise when kids are unable to recognize the extent to which they’re using their phones, especially if parents are blind to their own technology habits.

Additionally, phones provide a respite for many teenagers from the problems they see in the world around them. It is no secret that our world is more connected than ever before, and along with this comes a barrage of news and events from all around world that often focuses on negativity. This, coupled with the stress of today’s world, make kids naturally turn to their phones for a break from the real world.

Moreover, since developers create apps to keep people occupied and addicted by using motivators such as likes, game rewards and streaks, teens find themselves wanting to spend more time on their phone. However, these factors are rarely, if ever, addressed when kids are being told that they shouldn’t use their phones; instead, they are blamed for their habits, as if they are unaffected by these outside factors.

This is not to say that our technology usage is completely harmless. Technology, especially social media apps such as TikTok that encourage quick content, have been correlated with shorter attention spans, according to a study in the Nature Communications journal. However, to actually affect change, parents and other adults need to stop immediately criticizing their children and take a better approach to actually listen and work with their kids to get to the root of the issue. Adults must start recognizing the impact their habits and criticisms have on the children around them. Only then can we truly create change.

Jui Bhatia can be reached at [email protected].