A Smartphone Holiday: What You Should Keep in Mind Before Making a Purchase for Your Child

Written by Matthew Rigberg, LHMC

Matthew Rigberg, LHMCConsider the following story as it relates to this week’s piece.

Susan is the mother of a 12-year old boy and 14-year old girl. She finds herself in a difficult spot. Both of her children have given her a list of gifts that they’d like, and a smartphone is at the top of each. Susan understands the utility of a smartphone; it allows her and her children to remain in contact throughout the day, it’s great for emergencies and will allow her kids to communicate and interact with their friends. She and her husband have worked hard to raise responsible, conscientious people, though she wonders if they are ready to own such a device.

Ah, the holiday season; the most wonderful time of the year! As we prepare for the deluge of marketing tactics targeting our bank accounts and the pressure from our children to buy them the perfect gift, I decided to create a guide to help you decide whether purchasing a smartphone for your child this holiday season is the smart way to go.

Although many of us would love to give our kids everything they want, there are some things that need careful consideration. If gift-buying this holiday season is causing you stress and angst, then we’re here to help!

First, Some Statistics

The amount of teens who meet with friends nearly every day dropped by over 40% from 2000 to 2015. Click To Tweet

You’ll more than likely not find it shocking that many kids these days want a smartphone. They are marketed as cool and essential, and obviously this is a very intentional campaign to compel you to spend money, though, research is starting to reveal that there are serious concerns about an adolescent’s use of this type of technology. A couple of months ago, an illuminating and somewhat sensationalized article about teens and smartphones was published by The Atlantic. Here are some important facts that were presented in the article:

  • The amount of teens who meet with friends nearly every day dropped by over 40% from 2000 to 2015.
  • Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy.
  • Teens who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are likely to be happier.
  • When teens spend more time on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, loneliness and depression are more common.
  • Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media

Additionally, we have high profile tech celebrities like Bill and Melinda Gates advocating for responsible technology use and sharing their own parenting guidelines about smartphones, such as not having allowed their children to own a smartphone until they turned 14 and prohibiting their use during meals.

You’ll more than likely not find it shocking that many kids these days want a smartphone. Click To Tweet

Most recently, a grassroots campaign, “Wait Until 8th”, was created to empower parents to wait until at least 8th grade before giving a smartphone to their children, and it’s gained popularity and traction.

Given this sobering information, I present the screenless Holiday Gift Guide below. Please accept these as suggestions for gift ideas to consider. I am not endorsing these specific brands or online sellers:

Gifts for Young People

Gifts for Teens

Teens who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are likely to be happier. Click To Tweet
  • Hover Board – Beware of problems with batteries and chargers, please!
  • ZOOB BuilderZ – Advanced building kit.
  • Snap Circuit Kit – Create circuits.
  • Tinker Crate – A monthly subscription that delivers artistic materials to kids between nine- and sixteen-years old.
  • Doodle Crate – A monthly subscription that delivers engineering materials to kids between nine- and sixteen-years old.
  • Theatre, concert or sporting event tickets.
  • A gym membership.
  • A spa day.

Experiential Gifts for Kids of All Ages

  • The retailer Michael’s Crafts always has fun classes that can be found by clicking here. There, you can design your child’s gift with related supplies. For example, get some cake decorating supplies and sign him or her up for a cake decorating class!
  • Junior Chefs of America – A cooking school for kids (good for older kids, too).
  • A visit to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo – Behind the scenes tour at the zoo and animal encounters.
  • Tree Hoppers – Spend a day with a friend or your family at an “aerial adventure park”.
  • Altitude Tampa – Spend some quality time at this trampoline park or one similar.
  • Pump it Up Party – Consider an afternoon of fun at an indoor inflatable venue like this one.
  • Color Me Mine – An afternoon or evening of pottery painting.
  • Painting with a Twist – Attend a “class” with a friend at this painting studio.

Smart Gift-Giving

Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy. Click To Tweet

As we enter this often stressful time of the year, remember that you do not have to succumb to the pressures of consumerism! And, as always, if you or a family member need assistance or guidance in navigating your children or technology, our licensed psychologists in Tampa are here to help.

Happy Holidays!

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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