This is not a blog post about how evil smart phones can be. Like any piece of technology, they are both beneficial and dangerous depending on how they are used. And regardless of how people choose to leverage the almost limitless capabilities of a smart phone, we can at least admit they are here to stay and their use among middle schoolers will only increase with time.
What does concern me is how powerful a cell phone can be and how foolish, shortsighted, naive, and immature middle school students can be. Those factors create a potentially dangerous combination. I firmly believe middle school boys should not be given unrestricted permission to use their cell phones. Parental and digital oversight of cell phone use is important to protect boys and their peers.
If boys are not required to have any accountability with their smart phones, bad things can happen. Here are the five biggest pitfalls for a middle school boy who has a smart phone:
- He can stumble onto porn and watch it discreetly. When I was a teenager guys could get porn on their desktop computer at home. Now it’s even easier to access porn on smart phones. Porn is more portable and easier to conceal than ever. The sad thing is many middle school boys don’t realize what they’re doing when they first stumble onto porn.
- He can get nude photos from girls at school. Whether you want to believe it or not, middle schoolers ARE sending nude pictures of themselves to each other. Boys typically initiate and ask the girls for a “nudie” photo, and girls will often do it because it makes them feel like they are wanted. All it takes is one boy to share one photo with one of his friends and soon the entire school has a nude photo of a girl on their phone. That’s a yucky situation.
- He can take inappropriate pictures. This is not as serious sharing nude photos, but it can harm friendships among boys. Many middle school boys don’t have the discernment to realize that there are some places you shouldn’t take photos. They’ll snap photos with their phones at really inopportune times. For example, one time some guys thought it was funny to take pictures of their buddy at the urinal in the men’s bathroom, but can you imagine how mortified that boy would be if he found out someone was sending around pictures of him going to the bathroom?
- He can have an excuse to not have conversations. Middle school boys already have the deck stacked against them when it comes to social skills. They aren’t the most talkative creatures on earth. It’s good for them to have to struggle to have conversations because that’s how they learn to connect with others. Looking at their smart phone provides an easy way out of difficult conversations and allows boys to never have to learn to effectively communicate with others.
- He can miss out on life. This one applies to us adults, too. It’s so easy for anyone to get addicted to a smart phone, especially impulsive middle school boys who are physiologically unable to control themselves. Middle school is so short, so special, and so formative. Middle school boys can miss out on special relationships and special life moments if they get too wrapped up in what’s happening on their phone.
Parents, I’m not saying you’re a bad parent if you give your middle school son a cell phone. But make sure you and him have a mutual understanding of the boundaries that surround his cell phone use. Give him some limitations and don’t be ashamed of taking his phone and looking at his apps, his texts, and his browsing history from time to time. At this point of his life he needs that kind of protection.