Leah Tuckmire, 7-years-old, says, “Um, I have Facebook messenger for kids. That’s like talking to friends and people that I know and my parents know.”
Tuckmire, who’s in the second grade, isn’t alone.
Dr. Pheston Shelton is a child psychiatrist and says, “About 50% of third and fifth graders have phones. It’s very common.”
So parents like Leah’s mom Kylene, who’s Executive Director for Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County, works to make sure her daughter, and other kids have limits.
Kylene says, “They are digital natives. They’ve grown up in a world where they’ve never not known technology so they need to be comfortable with it.”
But the issue extends beyond comfort says Dr. Shelton. “One of our concerns is over use of phones and the addictive nature of phones, it creates this always on type of culture.”
Lauren Boucher is a digital and learning coach at ECU. She says, “I know as adults, when our phone dings that we got a text message or someone messaged us on Facebook or we’ve been tagged, our brains literally release dopamine. So when our kids are constantly connected on social media, they won’t sleep because they are waiting for the next ding. It’s almost like a drug addiction.”
According to a national survey by the American Psychological Association, there has been a rise in mental health issues over the last decade and it says digital media may be a reason why.
Dr. Shelton says, “Excessive or frequent social media use or phone use has been associated with decrease in happiness, increased reports of hopelessness in adolescents and young adults particularly undergraduate populations. There’s also been increased anxiety and decreased sleep in youth and young adults who report frequent media use. It definitely can affect their self confidence. Kids can’t get away from bullying, whether it’s social bullying or cyber bullying, they can’t leave it behind at school and come home, it continues to follow them.”
But time away from phones, TV’s and computers may help. A study in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior says 6th graders who went five days without exposure to technology were a lot better at reading human emotions than kids who did not.
Dr: Shelton says it all starts at home. “Kids look to parents on how to behave so parents can set time and use limits around the house.”
And for parents like Kylene, it’s all about balance as kids grow up in a world of technology. She says, “Both of my kids have no more than six friends on their account, so I am pretty limited on who they are friends with.”
Professionals said putting all phones and devices in one area of the home is a good way to set those limits.