Mother worries about negative effect of smartphones on teens

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Sarah Weaver, 32, of Williamsport, is concerned that teenagers are spending too much time on smartphones and too little time having the face-to-face social experiences critical to adolescent development.

Weaver, a medical student at Lock Haven University and mother of two, began growing concerned when she noticed how much time her 11- and 12-year-old daughters were spending on their phones.

“Both of them have smartphones now, but I’ve tried to limit their usage,” Weaver said.

“For example, they’re not allowed to use their cellphones while we’re eating. If I didn’t set restrictions, they’d spend eight to 10 hours a day on them,” she added.

Ultimately, Weaver has decided to let her children’s smartphone contracts expire. Instead, she says she will provide her daughters with regular cell phones.

“That way they can text and call if something important comes up, but they won’t have that constant distraction,” Weaver explained.

She wondered what the results would be of a 20-year longitudinal study on children who have used smartphones from an early age.

“People don’t realize, when you incorporate a new habit into your life, you have a physiological reaction to that event,” Weaver said.

“So there must certainly be a mixture of neurotransmitters that are being released in our body when we spend all day on our phones,” she added.

Weaver said that teenagers, especially, might be at risk for negative effects due to their stage of development. She noted that it was difficult to gather empirical data on teens.

“It’s hard to study adolescents. They hit puberty and all of these chemical changes begin taking place, their hormones start flowing, and that is a different experience for everyone,” Weaver said.

“Every teen is going through so much at that stage; they’re determining critical aspects of their identity. But with smartphones and social media, they’re missing out on those real-life conversations and face-to-face social cues,” she added.