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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'At lunch hour, everyone eats alone, scrolling TikTok'

But, Mom, everyone else has a smartphone.

Parents are trying to say "no" to smartphones for elementary and middle schoolers, but it's hard to buck the trends, writes Olivia Reingold on The Free Press.

By age 12, seven out of ten American kids own a smartphone. They also spend about eight hours online a day, inhaling TikTok trends, toggling between texts, and turning their daily lives into Snapchat and Instagram content. Most will have seen pornography by age 12, with three in four teenage boys saying they watch adult content at least once a week.

Jhett Rogers, a 13-year-old in Salt Lake City, feels "left out and jealous" of his friends with smartphones. But he doesn't want to be a "zoned out" phone zombie either. His middle school's no-phone policy isn't enforced. Students bump into each othe rin the hallways, because they're staring at their phones. At lunch hour, he tells Reingold, "everyone eats alone, scrolling TikTok."

Gabb lets children call and text, but not go online.

He has an internet-free Gabb, that allows calling, texting and a GPS tracker for parents. In 2017, Brooke Shannon drove past a middle school and saw children "staring into their palms," writes Reingold. She wanted her children to live life "with their heads up," and to have phone-free friends. Shannon founded Wait Until 8th to persuade parents to keep their children off phones until eighth grade.

“The younger the age of getting the first smartphone, the worse the mental health the young adult reports today,” writes Jon Haidt, citing a survey of 28,000 young adults around the world. Reingold talked to Nicholas Kardaras, who authored a book on tech addiction. He treats young adults with screen addictions at the Omega Recovery center in Austin, Texas. Often "influencers" have persuaded them they have Tourette syndrome, borderline personality disorder or gender dysphoria. When they go offline, escaping the “social contagion,” their symptoms disappear.

The New York Times quotes advice to parents on assessing whether their child has a problem. Anne Marie Albano, the co-clinical director of the Center for Youth Mental Health at NewYork-Presbyterian, recommends that a ratio of three to five hours of face-to-face socializing or in-person activities for every one hour a teen spends on social media.

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