Young girl looking at her mobile phone.

It’s something that parents have told their children for generations: “You’ll ruin your eyesight!” For Baby Boomers, it was sitting too close to the TV. For Gen Xers, it was portable video game consoles. And for modern kids, it’s their smartphones and tablets. But what’s the real science? Is there a point of concern? And can parental control apps spare kids eye injury as well as the darker side of the internet?

Closeup of person sitting at a table using their cell phone.

One of the downsides of the rapid changes in technology we’ve seen is that it creates new complications to some very old problems. Even before the internet, explaining the differences between physical and emotional intimacy, or addressing the differences between porn and reality were problems parents struggled with. Now, parents have the internet, sexting, and social media built on sharing sexual content to deal with, and parental control software and smartphone addiction is only one part of what’s an important conversation. So, what’s changed, and how can you deal with it?

Young teenage girl looking at her smartphone with a surprised expression.

As long as there have been smartphones, there have been claims that they’re dangerous. Sometimes, this danger is real and concrete. For example, there’s a reason police officers pull you over if you have your phone in your ear while you’re driving. Other times, dangers can be psychological. And sometimes, claims of smartphone danger can be vague yet frightening, like claims that “radiation” from your cell phone can cause cancer. Are our phones a radioactive risk to our kids? No, probably not. But it’s worth knowing why these claims are being made, and lessons we can learn.

Person lying down using their mobile app.

The Pew Research Center is a non-partisan think tank that takes a hard look at, among other things, the media and how we interact with it. Its latest study on this topic focused on teens, and it has a collection of insights parents should pay attention to.

Two teenage girls using their phones.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” has long been a point of contention between parents and their children. But there’s nowhere it’s more vividly drawn than when it comes to phone usage, which even schools have stopped trying to totally control. Parents are concerned about their kids’ phone use, and can use parental control software to limit calls, stop apps, or even lock the phone except for emergency calls during certain times of day. But what should parents do when their kids point out they’ve banned phones at the table, but they “just have to take this call?”

Young teenage girl sitting in a grey chair with a mobile phone.

It’s no secret that teens and tweens have plenty of buying power. Even before they’re old enough to have a job, kids are good at convincing their parents to buy the latest fashions or the newest gadgets. It’s understandable that brands want to find ways to advertise to this valuable demographic. And as television and print media become less popular, more and more advertisers are looking for ways to market to tweens and teens through the device that they use the most: their smartphones.

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