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0 Introduction
If we haven’t heard of smartphones, we’d like to learn where you’ve been
hiding all this time. Smartphones have been all over the news and chances are, you do
know what they are, only you know them under a different name. Smartphones are
mobile phones with computer like capabilities and internet search. We’ve not only
heard of that, we’ve probably seen them as well. Packed with Internet access, email
capabilities, address books, and a whole lot more, cell phones have come a long way
since their first debut.

Sandbox devices are tools that come pre-loaded with things like calendars,
calculators, and a notepad. What differentiates them from smartphones is that users can
add (download and install) additional programs to smartphones and they seemingly
become good portable computers for the people who use them. That (and the ability to
edit the content that sits on them) is what makes these phones ‘smart’.

Some of the more popular brand names include the Blackberry, PalmSource,
Nokia, and Windows CE. Yet the craze is extending to even some unknown company
names. Today, it’s hard to find a cell phone that doesn’t offer some sort of ‘smart’
technology because it’s in such a high demand. The convenience of having information
at our immediate access is phenomenal, so much so that thousands of programmers
have jumped on the opportunity to build unique applications specific to these small

As a result, you can find tons of games, databases, GPS systems, weather
reporting programs, and even small encyclopedias on these things, each accessible not
at the click of a mouse, but at a few presses of a free thumb. Of course a small
keyboard is available for the text-messaging fan or for the poor fellow who can’t seem
to get away from the office. In the latter case, don’t be surprised if you find the entire
Microsoft Office suite displayed within a screen no bigger than a matchbook.

That’s highly doubtful. The market for these devices extends from the highly
technical and professional all the way to the pre-teen socialite. The product crosses all
demographics and thanks to decreasing expense, it sees no economic boundaries as
well. The Wikipedia encyclopedia claims that ‘Out of 1 billion camera phones to be

shipped in 2008, Smartphones, the higher end of the market with full email support,
will represent about 10% of the market or about 100 million units’.

But what is it that makes smartphones so appealing? As I told earlier,
smartphones give us the ability to not only carry our data around with us where ever we
go, it also gives us the ability to edit that data any place, any time. In today’s ‘reality’
based generation, we’re always looking for the opportunity to capture and relive a
moment. And we want to share that moment with others. At best, smart phones give us
the opportunity to express ourselves impromptu with entertaining results.

2.0 Impacts of Smart Phones for Children’s Social Skills
Development of communication technology in this era saw the emergence of
various kinds of mobile phones, including smartphones. This smartphone is not only
used by adults only. On the other hand, also used by children as young as 4 years old .
However, these changes appear to be paying a lot of bad effects on children such as
will be described below.

2.1 Impact of Smart Phone to the Children Psychology
Today, over 1.8 billion people own smartphones and use their devices on a
daily basis. Some studies estimate that an average person checks their screen 150
times a day. This widespread use of technology trickles down to the youngest
members of our society. Data from Britain shows almost 70 percent of ‘11- to 12-
year-olds use a mobile phone and this increases to close to 90 percent by the age of

In a recent publication, it was noted that 56 percent of children between the
ages of 10 to 13 own a smartphone. While that fact alone may come as a shock, it is
estimated that 25 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 have a smartphone.
It should come as no surprise that smartphones and tablets have now replaced
basketballs and baby dolls on a child’s wish list. Elementary school-aged children
start asking, or let’s say begging, for these forms of technology before they can even
tie their shoes.

This raises the question of how mobile technology, typically found in
smartphones, affects childhood brain development. This topic has been creating a lot
of debate among parents, educators, and researchers. Unfortunately, smartphones are
relatively new and a lot of the gathered evidence is unclear or inconsistent. That
means that is important for parents to consider the potential effects smartphones can
have on childhood psychology and development.

A lot of research has been conducted over the years to understand how
children learn. There are many theories circulating, but Jean Piaget might be the most
respected in the education field. He was one of the first people to study how a child’s
brain develops. His cognitive development theory basically explains how learning is
a mental process that reorganizes concepts based on biology and experiences. He
deduced that children learn the same way. their brains grow and function in similar
patterns, moving through four universal stages of development.

Educators have been implementing a variety of techniques and methods into
their lessons that build on Piaget’s principles. Children need to experience the world
around them to accommodate new ideas. Children ‘construct an understanding of the
world around them’ and try to understand new ideas based on what they already
know and discover. For children, face-to-face interactions are the primary ways they
gain knowledge and learn.

Dr. Jenny Radesky of Boston Medical Center, became concerned when she
noticed the lack of interaction between parents and children. She had observed that
smartphones and handheld devices were interfering with bonding and parental
attention. Radesky said, ‘They (children) learn language, they learn about their own
emotions, they learn how to regulate them. They learn by watching us how to have a
conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not
happening, children are missing out on important development milestones’.

Screen time takes away from learning and physically exploring the world
through play and interactions. It can be noted that doctors and educators are worried
how the overexposure to touch-screen technology can impact developing brains.
Radiation from cellphones has long been a primary fear of how smartphones can

affect a brain. However, the radiation theory hasn’t been proven and many
professionals claim cellphones do not expose us to enough radiation to cause harm.
That may provide parents a little relief, but it appears that the radio frequencies
emitted from a smartphone might actually harm a developing brain.

The temporal and frontal lobes of the brain are still developing in a teen and
they are closest to the part of the ear where teens tend to hold their device. In fact,
‘research has shown that both the temporal and frontal are actively developing during
adolescence and are instrumental in aspects of advanced cognitive functioning’.
Besides exposing developing brains to radio waves or harmful radiation, researchers
are looking into how smartphones and the Internet can hinder or enrich brain
function. Dr. Gary Small, head of UCLA’s memory and aging research center,
performed an experiment that demonstrates how people’s brains change in response
to Internet use. He used two groups: those with a lot of computer savvy and those
with minimal technology experience. With brain scans, he discovered that the two
groups had similar brain functions while reading text from a book. However, the tech
group showed ‘broad brain activity in the left-front part of the brain known as the
dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, while the novices showed little, if any, activity in this

As a child ages it often feels like they need to practice technology to stay on
top of the modern advancements. However, Dr. Small’s experiment shows that after a
few days of instruction, the novices were soon showing the same brain functions as
the computer-savvy group. Technology and screen time had rewired their brains. It
appears that increased screen time neglects the circuits in the brain that control more
traditional methods for learning. These are typically used for reading, writing, and

Smartphones and the Internet also affect communication skills and the
emotional development of humans. If a child relies on electronics to communicate,
they risk weakening their people skills. Dr. Small suggests that children can become
detached from others’ feelings.

2.2 Smart Phone Stunting Children Social Skills
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that as of 2009 22
percent of teens log on to their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day,
half log on more than once a day. Seventy-five percent own cell phones. Twenty-five
percent use them for social media, 54 percent for texting and 24 percent for instant
messaging. No doubt those numbers have increased since that poll was published.
Researchers worked with a total of 105 sixth graders from a Southern California
public school, a small but significant study. Half of those students spent five days at a
nature and science camp where digital technology was strictly taboo. It seems
participants were forced to interact with each other face-to-face instead of screen-to-

All were tested before and after the five days. All were shown photographs of
people and asked to state whether the emotions expressed in the photos were happy,
sad, angry or frightened. They were also shown videos and asked to describe what
was happening in the simple scenarios. The test group of campers did much better,
paring their average down to 9.41 errors, a significant improvement over their pre-
camp average of 14.02. Both the boys and girls who did not attend the nature camp
showed little progress.

Dr. Karl Benzio, Executive Director of Lighthouse Network, tells EAGNews,
‘Being able to read a person’s facial expressions and body language, hear their tone
of voice and look them in the eye allows us to gain so much more from the
interaction than even talking to them on the phone. The connection the face-to-face
contact brings powerfully deepens the relationship as well, which allows further
opportunities to practice and hone more complex aspects of relationship skills’.

Besides presenting a roadblock to developing social skills, social media
presents other problems. Dr. Benzio lists a few:-
a) Impatience in relationships because of the instantaneousness of
social media.
b) Interference with relationship skill acquisition and implementation.
c) Having so many casual acquaintances as able to reach out to many
people, but then no time to really have deeper relationships.

d) Mistaking social media relationships for real ones.
e) Using social media to engage in more in depth and complicated
relationship activities, like dating, breaking up, managing conflict, apologizing,
forgiving, offering a job, explain a misunderstanding, taking ownership of a
problem, accountability and disciplining activities to name a few.
f) Inability to articulate or explain anything with depth of thought and
feeling and requires back and forth connection.

Predictably, the key to ensuring children develop healthy social skills in an
uncertain environment of social media are parents. The AAP advises parents to talk to
their children about their online use and discuss the issues of cyberbullying, sexting
and the difficulty of effectively managing time because of spending too much time on
social media. The organization says parents also need to become better educated
about the technologies their children are using. And they need to supervise their
children’s online activities with active participation and communication rather than
just depending on monitoring software.

2.3 Effect of Smart Phone to Children Emotion
In a commentary for the journal Pediatrics, researchers at Boston University
School of Medicine reviewed available types of interactive media and raised
‘important questions regarding their use as educational tools’, according to a news
release. The researchers said that though the adverse effects of television and video
on very small children was well understood, society’s understanding of the impact of
mobile devices on the pre-school brain has been outpaced by how much children are
already using them.

The researchers warned that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child’s
attention could be detrimental to ‘their social-emotional development’. The scientists
clarified that if these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract
young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-

Use of interactive screen time below three years of age could also impair a
child’s development of the skills needed for maths and science, they found, although
they also said some studies suggested benefits to toddlers’ use of mobile devices
including in early literacy skills, or better academic engagement in students with
autism. Jenny Radesky, clinical instructor in developmental-behavioural pediatrics at
Boston University School of Medicine, published her team’s findings. She urged
parents to increase ‘direct human to human interaction’ with their offspring.

Besides that, Radesky encouraged more ‘unplugged’ family interaction in
general and suggested young children may benefit from ‘a designated family hour’ of
quality time spent with relatives – without any television and mobile devices being
involved. The researchers pointed out that while there is plenty of expert evidence
that children under 30 months cannot learn as well from television and videos as they
can from human interaction, there has been insufficient investigation into whether
interactive applications on mobile devices produce a similar result. Radesky
questioned whether the use of smartphones and tablets could interfere with the ability
to develop empathy and problem-solving skills and elements of social interaction that
are typically learned during unstructured play and communication with peers.

Playing with building blocks may help a toddler more with early maths skills
than interactive electronic gadgets, she said. Radesky also finds out if these devices
may replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor
and visual-motor skills, which are important for the learning and application of maths
and science. There is evidence that well-researched early-learning television
programmes, such as Sesame Street, and electronic books and learn-to-read
applications on mobile devices can help vocabulary and reading comprehension, the
team found, but only once children are much closer to school age.

2.4 Smart Phone can Harm a Toddler’s Learning and Social Skills
Researchers worry over the effects of using a device at too young of an age. It
wasn’t long before 2-year-old Kyle got his hands on his father’s iPad. He worked
with it with an immediate, almost savant-like, fluency. His parents were amazed.
Nevertheless, the researchers have arrived a series of unsettling conclusions. They

said children younger than 30 months ‘cannot learn from television and videos as
they do from real-life interactions’. And to use a mobile device before that age on
tasks that aren’t educational can be ‘detrimental to the social-emotional development
of the child.

It’s not all bad, however. If an iPad is used for educational purposes, like
vocabulary acquisition or to read electronic books, they can help in the education of a
child. But when it’s turned to mindless material, which the researchers call
‘mundane,’ it may be harmful for kids. ‘It has been well-studied that increased
television time decreases a child’s development of language and social skills,’
Radesky said. ‘Mobile media use similarly replaces the amount of time spent
engaging in direct human-human interaction’.

3.0 Conclusion
Smartphones are convenient, of course, but they also alter the parent-child
relationship, creating a constant connectivity that can often be mistaken for a genuine
connection. It can weaken your authority and ability to bond, and in the hands of
children whose judgment isn’t yet fully developed, smartphones can lead to the fast-
track to bad choices and even worse consequences.

Peer-enting is still a useful way to kick-off a difficult conversation, but when it
dominates the parenting arsenal, it takes the place of honest exchanges that build a
lasting and meaningful relationship. Act too much like a friend, and you can gloss over
opportunities to give direction, which instills values and build character. And taken to
an extreme, children can actually see you as a buddy, and not a parent, making
guidance all but impossible.

It’s no coincidence the shifting of authority in the home has coincided with a
rise of mobile devices. Technology has changed the rules of parenting. But by giving
kids Internet access too soon, such as in the private and portable way of smartphones,
the risk is that they’ll conduct their personal exploration away from your guidance.

‘Personal devices give children more room to grow and explore their own
identity than shared devices, like a family television, might have beforehand,’ Sarita
Schoenebeck, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan who studies how
technology impacts parents and youths in the home and at school, said.

Of course, in some ways, trying to sneak one by the parents is natural. And one
of the main goals of adolescence is to separate from adults, developing and pursuing
independent interests and beliefs. But as parents, it can be hard embracing the reality
that they’re growing up, and peer-ents, in particular, often resort to a mobile connection
to try to stay an important part of their children’s lives.

But children, especially millennials, are one step ahead of you. You may feel
that a smartphone helps you track what the kids are doing, but more likely than not,
they’re just sending ‘check-in’ texts from anywhere.

As a parent, you need to check texts, social media and app use to make sure
they aren’t using them as a substitute for face-to-face conversation. Otherwise, your
kids may be creating the illusion of communication that covers up a lack of real

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