Lesson #5: Delay and restrict smartphone use

There are few struggles in parenting that have plagued me more than the topic of smartphone use. For those with kids younger than my own, I have some hard-earned parental wisdom: delay and restrict smartphone use for as long as possible. Because once that genie’s out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put her back.

Are smartphones destroying our kids?

My daughter had relatively unrestricted access to a smartphone and social media accounts long before Dr. Jean Twenge’s story Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? appeared in the September 2017 issue of The Atlantic.

If you’re unfamiliar with Twenge’s research, here’s a quick summary: Twenge studies generational differences, and noticed that in 2012, there was an abrupt shift in adolescent behaviour and emotional states. That same year, the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. By 2017, three of four American teens had smartphones. As smartphone use shot up, adolescent well-being plummeted.

Graph showing decline in teenagers' well-being after 2012
Research conducted by Jean M. Twenge and Gabrielle N. Martin, Department of Psychology,
San Diego State University; W. Keith Campbell, Department of Psychology,
University of Georgia shows declines in teenagers’ well-being, as reported by 8th, 10th and 12th-graders,

She argues that while teens are safer physically, the post-millennial generation is “on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades.”

There are many who disagree with Twenge’s siren call.  Dr. Sarah Rose Cavanagh, in her column for  Psychology Today, argued Twenge cherry picked her data, that her research showed mere associations vs correlations.

Similarly, Elizabeth Nolan Brown on BuzzFeed called bullshit on Twenge’s theory citing that suicide rates have fallen dramatically since the 1990s. So has the use of alcohol, smoking, car accidents and teenage pregnancies. She writes, “the kids, by almost all measures, are more than alright.”

In Nature, an international journal of science, author Candice Odgers reports that smartphones are bad only for some kids, not all. Online activity, the author argues, is only reflecting and potentially worsening existing vulnerabilities.

So, what’s a parent to do?

I’m not a scientist, but here’s what I know for sure: My daughter was a Snapchat fanatic by the age of 13 with thousands upon thousands of snaps under her belt. She seemed fine. Until she developed clinical depression.

Continue reading “Lesson #5: Delay and restrict smartphone use”

Lesson #2: Requesting academic accommodation

Requesting academic accommodation for my teenager daughter who lives with depression wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. Here’s what happened.

At some point, you may need to request academic accommodation for your child.

Accommodations are based on the premise that school is not about how you learn, but what you learn. They’re designed to “level the playing field” by recognizing that people with mental health disabilities or physical disabilities may be at a disadvantage.

In our case, the need for accommodations arose when my daughter was in grade ten. She was having trouble writing tests, and later that same year, the weekend before final exams she felt unable to write them at all. With her first exam scheduled for 9am on Monday morning and worth 30% of her final mark, my husband and I and her therapist scrambled to figure out how to handle the situation. Continue reading “Lesson #2: Requesting academic accommodation”