Like many parents who discipline their kids for failing grades, bad attitudes, or misbehavior, this mom took her son's cell phone away, and in the process made an amazing discovery-her son was happier without it.
After confiscating her 13-year-old son's phone for a few weeks as a form of punishment, Katie Smith, a mom of three from Maine, realized her son's mood lifted, he communicated more with his family, and he didn't miss his phone all that much, she wrote in a parenting essay for Babble.
Like any teenager, her child was initially upset when she took his phone away. "He figured the next few weeks would be hell, but to my surprise after the first few hours, he seemed to perk up," Katie Smith wrote in Babble. "The day after that, I noticed something else happen: he was much more animated, engaged with the family, and talkative than he had been in almost a year. Without his cell phone, he opened up and honestly seemed happier than he's been in a long time."
What was even more shocking was his own assessment. "When the phone had been gone for a week, he actually told me he felt happier without it," Katie wrote. "The fact he noticed this on his own was gold." Her son's improved behavior and outlook further proves what science has tried to tell us: There's a clear link between cell phones and temperamental behavior-and even mental health issues-in teenagers.
According to a Baylor University study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, smartphone users are prone to moodiness, emotional instability, materialism, and impulsiveness. What's more, there's also an increased risk for anxiety and depression for teens and young adults who find themselves obsessed with their phones, according to a study from the University of Illinois. "People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," said Alejandro Lleras, the psychology profess behind the study.
Katie noticed similar effects on her son too. "I wouldn't say my son was depressed when he had regular access to his phone, but he was quieter and more irritable," she wrote. And with the average American teen interacting with social media and video games on their phones for about 6.5 hours a day, according to a Common Sense Media survey, it's no wonder all that screen time is costing them somewhere.
When the punishment ends, Katie plans to give her phone back to her son-but with new rules in place including limited daily use and no-phone days. "I'm ready to bring up the conversation about how he feels happier without it if he resists these new rules," she wrote. "After all, he said it himself and he can't argue with that!"
Read Katie's full essay over at Babble.
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