I’ve tackled cell phone usage earlier this year and have a feeling that being mid-summer and with the upcoming school year approaching you are being inundated with requests from your kids to get a cell phone, or even a newer one…let’s talk about the safety again and some guidelines to help with usage.The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies cell phone radiation as a “possible human carcinogen” due to an increased risk of brain cancer from long-term and heavy use of cell phones. Although short-term cell phone exposure has not been shown to cause brain tumors, research is showing that it can change your brain activity in ways we don’t fully understand yet.
Cell phones and ADHD
The constant stimulation available via smartphone makes them especially distracting for kids with ADHD. “We know from behavioral science that we move towards things that we find immensely reinforcing, and move away from things we find aversive,” explains David Anderson, a clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD and behavioral disorders at the Child Mind Institute. “Phones are made to be as reinforcing as possible. If you’re not getting an email, you’re getting a social media update, or you’re checking a news feed, or you’re checking a sports score.”
Children with ADHD find it more difficult to resist the siren call of all that stimulation, and to stay tuned in to activities that are less reinforcing but more important–activities like homework or dinner table conversation.
Cell phones are also especially risky for kids, including those with ADHD, who are prone to act impulsively. Their impulsivity makes them more likely to post or send something they may regret later on, and in a world where everything you create is recorded in cyberspace, they are at risk for making long-lasting mistakes.
Strategies for Parents
- Model appropriate cell phone use. Start with what we can do. Leave our cell phones at the door. Turn them off at mealtime. Don’t harass our kids with endless texts checking up on them. If we model restraint, maybe our kids will see it’s possible.
- Limit access. Stop paying for the darn phones. If your child is addicted, cut them off. A simple rule I hold to is that in general, when a child can afford a device they are likely responsible enough to have it. Let your child buy their own phone, their own data package, their own gaming systems. Hold back from giving them everything they think they need to be like every other kid and let them feel that lovely self-esteem boost of knowing “I’m a little different” which could also translate into “I’m unique”. The way I see it, if they’re motivated to find work, and get themselves online, then they’re less likely to have the time to become addicted to their phone.
- Set routines and structure. No cell phone use at bedtime. Turn the phone off and put it away. Any addiction that triggers a change in brain functioning is going to be difficult to control as long as it’s there at hand ready to light up our neural pathways. As parents our job isn’t meant to be easy. It’s meant to prepare children for life and that means telling them “No” when really, deep down, that’s what they want to hear anyway.
- Offer substitutes. Create opportunities for kids to keep busy. Give them chores and real responsibilities that matter to the family. Planning a winter vacation and they’re coming along? Any 14-year-old with good net surfing skills can find a hotel on a beach, or scope out activities to do off site at the all-inclusive. Let’s stop making our children’s lives so easy and in the process offer them real diversions. Insist they are active an hour a day. Put them into activities and take away their cell phone. Oh there will be histrionics, but the end result will likely be a happier, more engaged child with the life skills and habits that will make them healthier more successful adults.
Let’s learn to be more pro-active with our health, not simply reactive. We are raised in a society that focuses on being reactive to most things, and health is no different. For example we are told that nutrition doesn’t matter, but inherently that doesn’t jive. If bad food could make you side then why wouldn’t good food make us healthier? Food as fuel is one way to be proactive and there are many other ways to make small and simple changes to bring more health and wellness to our lives.
-Learn about the Dirty Dozen, the top 12 produce that you should only eat organically as their pesticide load is so high. Start there. Simply replace purchasing those foods organically. The Dirty Dozen for 2018 is: Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers and Potatoes.
-Implement Time Management Strategies to reduce your overall stress and improve your productivity. My top 5 recommendations are: Set Priorities Make a “do” list, Curb Interruptions, Learn to say no, Schedule quiet time everyday. You can always add more as you improve your efficiency but this is all about gaining time and enjoying your life.