Ryerson University Smartphones and Parental Responsibility Discussion

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Ryerson University


Please respond to the main discussion questions using the required readings which is uploaded in the file section also respond to me class mate  stating whether you agree or disagree with their response to the same discussion question and state why so do you agree and disagree. 

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Discussion questions for “Smartphones and the abdication of parental responsibility” 1. What are your reactions to Andrea’s concern that “as the phone replaces face-to-face interactions, her daughter “won't be able to communicate or develop deeper, meaningful friendships”? Is this a concern that any of your family members have expressed? Do you believe that the use of smart phones has led to less meaningful communication amongst your family members, or do you feel that the use of smart phone has helped you to develop stronger ties with family members? Provide examples. 2. In your opinion, why might some parents’ hearts “fill with icy dread” at the thought of having to decide when their child should get his/her/their first cell phone? How might this be a source of anxiety for parents? What kinds of potential tensions may surface between parents and children once a child gets his/her/their own cell phone? In your opinion, how can parents and children respond to these tensions? 3. Ira Wells (the author of this article) draws on current research conducted by American psychologist, Jean Twenge. Twenge argues that there is a correlation between the increase in mental health issues experienced by American adolescents and the rise in electronic device usage. In other words, Twenge highlights the negative outcomes that come about – particularly for young women – when they use social media platforms frequently. Do these findings surprise you? In your opinion, how might increased social media usage potentially lead to particular mental health issues? How can parents protect their children from the potential negative effects of smart phone usage? OPINION Smartphones and the abdication of parental responsibility IRA WELLS CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL PUBLISHED JANUARY 6, 2018UPDATED JANUARY 16, 2018 Like most kids who have recently been given their first cellphones, Andrea's 12-year-old daughter is pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. When asked what she likes best about her new iPhone, she shrugs. "Feeling responsible," she says. Besides, since her friends mostly interact over Snapchat and Instagram, the phone is a crucial way to keep in touch. Sure, she's heard about kids "writing rude things" on social media, and sneaking off to the school bathroom to check their notifications. But over all, she's not worried. "Worried," however, hardly begins to describe the deep apprehension that Andrea feels toward her daughter's phone. Andrea's concern, or one of them, is that as the phone replaces face-to-face interactions, her daughter "won't be able to communicate or develop deeper, meaningful friendships. And it's easy enough for a grownup to fall into the trap of valuing yourself for your 'likes.' How is a hormonal teenager going to handle that?" Among the infinite sources of anxiety involved in childrearing today, few fill parents' hearts with icy dread quite like the question of when kids should get their first smartphones. For modern parents, members of the last generation to grow up prior to ubiquitous internet access, equipping kids with their first phone often feels like a momentous decision – one that could impact children's social development, influence their sense of self, shape their first romantic experiences and even condition their experience of "reality." And yet, despite their often-profound misgivings, most parents today act as though the smartphone is simply an unavoidable fixture of adolescence. That is an interesting reversal of expectations. Pop psychology tells us that today's parents are mollycoddling, hyper-protective control freaks. Yet, when it comes to the signature parenting issue of our generation – the effect of smartphones on children – we have ceded control to the kids themselves, or to the marketing departments of Silicon Valley corporations. Kids are going to "need" those phones, according to the dominant cultural narrative, because the future. Or connection. Or something. While parents endlessly discuss when kids should get their first phones, there's no debating that children are getting phones earlier than ever. In the United States, where statistics are more readily available, the average child gets his or her own smartphone at 10.3 years of age, down from 12 just a few years ago, according to the marketing firm 1 Influence Central. In this country, more than one-quarter of Grade 4 students have their own phone, according to a 2015 report by MediaSmarts, a digital literacy non-profit. That number rises each year until Grade 11, when 85 per cent report owning a phone. Of course, simply having a phone does not guarantee participation in social media, but let's be real. One-third of Canadian children in Grades 4 to 6 have Facebook accounts, even though the site is technically prohibited to those under 13, according to MediaSmarts. Most parents, educators and experts agree that there is no universal "right" age at which to give kids their first phones. For Alex Russell, a clinical psychologist who works with children and teenagers and author of Drop the Worry Ball: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement, the decision must be situated within an understanding of the overall maturation of individual children on their path to autonomy. "Parents are understandably anxious over their children's online activities," Dr. Russell said over the phone. "But a healthy development process will involve children taking on some of that anxiety for themselves. We want kids to be playful, but appropriately wary." In Dr. Russell's experience, parents tend to get hung up on the alarming (violent or sexual) content of digital media, where they should really be concerned about the form: that is, how digital media can prevent the uninterrupted experience of our own private interiority. But just how harmful is this new media, really? Few authorities suggest prohibiting smartphones; even the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) suggests that moderation is key, counselling parents to set limits on smartphone usage and "unplug" at least an hour before bedtime, given the melatonin-suppressing effects of cellular devices – although the CPS also acknowledges that the digital landscape is evolving faster than research can measure the effects on children. That research, however, is starting to catch up – and the results are unsettling. In an article this month in Clinical Psychological Science, the American psychologist Jean Twenge and three co-authors highlight the connection between the recent spike in mental health issues among adolescents and the concomitant rise in electronic device usage. Their study found that four suicide-related outcomes – feeling sad or hopeless, seriously considering suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide – were "significantly correlated" with new media screen time. "The results," the authors conclude, "show a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels." The negative psychological outcomes were particularly pronounced among young women, who use social media more heavily and are more frequently the victims of cyberbullying than their male peers. While the connection between depression and the new media is certainly alarming, it also confirms what many parents have long suspected: our kids' sense of self-worth is often hopelessly entwined with the "like-driven" economy that governs social media. Children have difficulty negotiating technologies that have been engineered, in the words of Tristan Harris, a former Google Design Ethicist, to "exploit our minds' weaknesses" through supplying intermittent variable rewards (such as notifications, matches and so on), which operate according to the logic of slot machines to maximize addiction. And kids' induction into these technologies comes at a tumultuous life-stage of social and intellectual development. "Imagine trying to focus on quadratic equations with your cellphone constantly buzzing in your pocket," says Lesley McLean, a Grade 11 History and English teacher. Schools are facing a constant stream of issues, she says, from naked pictures to bullying, and no one knows how to cope. 2 It is a bitter irony that today's parents – who micromanage every facet of their children's lives, from their diet and vaccinations to their cultural consumption and education – have nonetheless passively accepted this potentially noxious technology as an inevitable part of their kids' future. Many parents of teens and preteens are openly thankful that we didn't have to contend with new media when we were growing up – thank God that our every social feud, silly picture, or foolish remark was not catalogued for posterity online. And yet, when it comes to our children, we quietly relinquish our parental responsibility to U.S. tech companies, whose directives to "innovate" and "connect" now resonate so deeply that, apart from fusty appeals to nostalgia or neo-Luddism, we cannot even conceive of breaking from the narrative. We recognize that social media may be destroying democracy, but presume that its effects upon our teenagers will be nugatory. That may be starting to change. In a recent talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president of user growth for Facebook, openly advocated for people to take a "hard break" from social media, which he claimed is "ripping apart the social fabric." "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops – hearts, likes, thumbs-up – are destroying how society works. … There is no civil discourse, no co-operation, misinformation, mistruth." His own children, he said, aren't allowed to use social media. If a former vice-president of Facebook has prohibited his own kids from social media, why does it strike us as inconceivable that we should do the same? The trouble starts when we tell ourselves that smartphones will make our children safer, that these devices will enable us to monitor their movements at a time when many are starting to walk to school or take the subway on their own. Kids, of course, want the phones for their own reasons, to be able to connect with their peers through social media. We then tell ourselves that it would be cruel to bar kids from doing so; that it might even be socially ostracizing. What parents may fail to appreciate is the severity of the ostracization and exclusion that occurs within the social networks they fear their children may be excluded from. Parents always begin with the assumption that "their kids will use their phones in a limited way," Dr. Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, wrote in an e-mail. Or they "assume that if they spend lots of time on the phone it's harmless – after all, parents use social media themselves and are 'fine.' It's easy to be optimistic and not expect your kid to be the one who suffers the consequences." But kids may, in fact, suffer the consequences. As we learn more about the link between new media and mental illness, about the ways in which such media has been engineered to addict, parents should remind ourselves that smartphones are a consumer choice subject to parental discretion, not a harbinger of some preordained digital future. We should recognize the distinction between "convenience" and "safety." We should no longer pretend that the smartphone is merely a tool, that what matters is how it is used – while ignoring the ways in which we are in turn programmed by the devices themselves, the ways that they use us. And we could stand to take ourselves more seriously: If we are thankful for our own unmediated childhoods, why sentence our kids to psychic lives of distraction? 3 Above all, however, we must no longer passively accept the logic of technological determinism – that our own parenting decisions and values must adapt to serve the economic interests of tech companies. Every technological innovation, Marshall McLuhan once observed, brings about a corresponding amputation. It is the right of every parent to decide not only when those amputations should come, but if they should come at all. 4 Class mate : Shirel 1) I agree on a certain level with Andrea because the more children use their phones, the less time they dedicate to family members, particularly parents. This is especially the case if a child cannot connect to their parents or lives in a non-nuclear household, and needs a platform to mentally "get away" from everyday stressors. Also, because children make new friends and join peer groups during the school years, reputation becomes important. This means that to be reputable and popular at school, the child must have social media, which requires them to step away from in-person daily communications with others. Likewise, I had conversations about this with my parents in the past, and I asked them what it was like to communicate face-to-face with friends, as children. They let me know that times back then, in terms of social interactions, were a lot easier because no one had to worry about likes, emojis, bullying, etc. instead, interactions were non-fake and allowed for real friendships to form. When going on social media today, there are a lot of people who are willing to backstab you and hurt your feelings for their benefit. Some individuals become friends with you and send you requests, but later treat you as if they had no intentions of knowing you and being supportive friends. Furthermore, a personal example of where phones reduced the oneon-one interactions in my family is when I got my first phone at the age of twelve or thirteen. I remember that having a phone was important for safety, but it was also "cool". I would constantly be checking my phone for notifications, and I loved posting pictures of myself onto social media such as Facebook, as I had quite a few friends with whom I would communicate online. This is not to say, however, that I engaged on a deeper level with friends online, in comparison to when I saw them at school. I also remember being so attached to my phone that I had to put it away when I sat at the dinner table with my family. This is an example where I lost that strong bond with my parents, as I was greatly attached to what was happening on my device. On the other hand, I feel that the statement made by Andrea is not necessarily accurate if parents are more strict with their rules on the usage of social media and phones, in general. For instance, my niece received a phone at the age of nine, and although I feel that she sometimes sits on it for prolonged periods, she puts it away when it is time to go to bed and throughout the school day. Overall, I think that the way children are encouraged to use their phones makes a great impact on their level of engagement with others, particularly when building friendships. Additionally, I cannot say that my family expressed concern for my interactions with my phone other than the times I had to stop using it at the dinner table. Perhaps putting my phone away at that moment allowed me to realize that I was dining with people who are very close to me, thus I was able to connect even more than I would, should I have stayed on my phone. 2) In my opinion, some parents' hearts "fill with icy dread" (Wells, 2018, p. 1) when deciding when their child should get their first cell phone because it can impact "children's social development, influence their sense of self, shape their first romantic experiences and even condition their experience of 'reality" (Wells, 2018, p. 1). This means that parents are afraid that phones may impact the lives of children negatively. As a result, this could be a source of anxiety for parents. Similarly, parents often worry about the safety of their children as they become older and spend more time outside the home, but on the other hand, they "are understandably anxious over their children's online activities" (Wells, 2018, p. 2). Having these two thoughts on their minds cause parents to feel on the fence about buying children their first device. Likewise, some potential tensions that may arise between parents and children once they get their cellphone include less time for personal communication, more rebellious children, secrets being kept from parents, new things occurring in the lives of children which parents are not aware of, etc. To respond to such tensions, parents and children could compromise as to when children use their phones throughout the day, which social media children can use, having personal conversation time set aside for children and families each day, and being open about things with one another. Doing so will not only ensure that parents are interacting with their children, but it gives children space to spend time with those outside of their immediate family. 3) Knowing that mental health issues are arising as a result of electronic device usage does not shock me because a lot of times, children using their phones are exposed to things that they are too young to know about, such as sexual relations, or they have to put in a great amount of effort to keep up their reputation online, which can affect their emotional wellness. Also, I knew that women are more prone to having reduced mental health when online, because they are more likely to experience cyberbullying compared to men. To add onto this, phones are usually used for social media which means that if children are not careful about whom they speak with or what they post, they will most likely experience bullying, as it is much easier to make others feel bad when it is not done through face-to-face interactions. At times like this, children might also feel ashamed and will hide their problems from their parents. On the other hand, however, if a child is careful about who they trust and they keep their settings private for instance, they should feel a sense of relief as they no longer have to share everything with their parents, rather they have their own space to learn about the world around them. This is not to say, however, that having this freedom while being online does not impact their mental well-being. To give an example, during class, especially now that it is online, I have difficulty concentrating on shool material because I constantly receive notifications or I leave my social media account open. This therefore has an impact on my schooling, eventually affecting my mental well-being. Finally, for parents to protect children from the negative effects of cellphone usage, they can set ground rules with their children about when and how they could use their phones. For instance, if a child has a class online or they have to eat lunch, they must keep their phones in another room of the house. Additionally, if a child is taken outside for some physical activity or fresh air, parents can ask them to leave their devices at home so they are fully engaged in the experience. Doing so will enhance positive relationships between children, families, and others, while still allowing the child to engage with their phones once they get home.
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Andrea's concern as a parent is concerned about her daughter. She feels her daughter
won't confide and connect with her. The cellphone is depriving her daughter of lesser and lesser
time dedicated to family members cutting connections with them and creating a platform to get
away from everyday struggles mentally. This is a common concern that most parents have
expressed, saying that phones have made us step away from person-to-person communication
with others. I believe that the use of smartphones has led to less meaningful communication
amongst family members. For instance, these days, a child only communicates face-face with
family members during dinner time; this is the only time the...

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