The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: Be Smart, Take Away Your Child's Smart Phone

The new book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness,” has started a conversation about what age kids should be given a cell phone.

The author, Jonathan Haidt, is a social psychologist, and he suggests that teens should only be given flip phones for communication and have little to no access to social media until they are 16.

Parents like what he has to say, though kids maybe not so much.

Mental health collapsed in America and countries around the world in 2012. The transition from play-based childhoods to phone-based childhoods contributed to the mental health crisis because it is not human…and children are.

The stranger danger attitude made the real world seem dangerous and allowed kids to be lured into an addictive virtual world and away from free play and independent thinking. Parents thought they were keeping their children safe but had no awareness of the dangers smart phones would invite. Social media platforms were de-designed for adults, not children with developing minds.

Anxiety and depression, self-harm, and suicide rates among teenagers are still rising. Parallel to the mental health crisis is the drug crisis and there is an obvious direct connection between these two and the smart phone.

I can tell you from personal experience that your teenager can access a full drug menu on Snapchat. They can find a dealer, that dealer may not even be from this country, and drugs can be delivered to your house to your child. Drug dealers do not keep the same hours as you. They will come out late in the wee hours of the morning like a roach.

Drug dealers are not worried about the well-being of your child. They think in dollars, not sense. They are not concerned about the possible ramifications of overdose, addiction, or arrest.

I live in the country behind a locked iron gate, and drugs were thrown over our fence. Alcohol was delivered in a similar manner.

Life has taught me that what this new book suggests is true. My only question is why cave at 16?

If you have a well-adjusted 16-year-old, why put a smart phone in their hand? Maybe the right time for your child to have a smart phone is when they are grown and can get in their car, drive to the phone store, and sign their own contract.

Maybe another conversation worth having is if social media is that bad for a girl’s mental health, then is it really all that great for her mother’s mental health? I am just curious. Because if you don’t feel super secure about yourself when you are young – while everything is still light, tight, and yet affected by years of gravitational pull and stress – how secure do you think you will feel about yourself years later? Moms get anxious and depressed too. It is okay to go cold turkey with all social media. Chances are nobody will miss you in the virtual world, you will feel happier in the real world, and you may find you have more free time. Try it.

Amanda Walker is a columnist and contributor with, The Birmingham News, Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at or at


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