Calling the shots By Hannah Edelman
Parents need to play it smart – and stand firm – when deciding whether their child should have a smartphone
aying “no” to one’s kids isn’t always easy for parents. Although it usually catalyzes an argument, refusing pleas for sugary cereal and a DIY haircut at least come with the comfort of having logic on one’s side. But what about when a child starts to beg for a smartphone? What does one do without an established limit on something so integral in today’s world?
The answer, according to pediatric physician Dr. Shelly Senders, is still to say “no.” The founder of Senders Pediatrics in South Euclid explains that parents have a responsibility to raise and educate their children, and that they shouldn’t apologize for acting like a parent. “We see a lot of older kids who have become essentially emotionally shut in because they’re constantly on their phones,” he says. “If you do that too early in a child’s life, they don’t develop the relationships that are critical to being healthy teenagers and adults.” Dr. Jan Kriwinsky of Pediatric Place in Beachwood expresses similar concerns about the social development of children with smartphones, especially after witnessing kids as young as 9 using cell phones at the office.
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“I think you lose the ability to communicate and use the English language, and it’s important to learn those skills – especially at an early age,” he says. “They don’t need a phone. They don’t need all the electronics.” It’s face-to-face personal interactions, not textual interactions or social media interactions, that improve social connections, Senders says. “When you don’t see a face or talk to someone, you miss out on nuances in behavior,” Senders explains. “It’s those nuances that are really critical for developing social interaction.” However, extenuating circumstances may be grounds for a smartphone at an earlier age, Senders says. For example, if a child is traveling alone or out late because of school and needs a way to communicate with his or her parents, a cell phone can be a way to ensure safety and communication.