To the Carpenter

How early is too early to get a cell phone? I have nieces and nephews that get their first phone or Android-based electronic device as young as five and six. Children in high school and even middle or elementary school are becoming emotionally dependent on these seemingly ubiquitous devices. From online lessons and homework to simple entertainment, cell phone use is quickly supplanting face-to-face outdoor activities for indoor sedentary ones. But for every benefit, there appears to be a hidden cost.

For instance, it appears to be linked to an increase in teen depression and suicide rates [1]. Since 2012, there have been several spikes in the rates of suicide and depression, for those who spend three or more hours a day, regardless of what content is being consumed.  The article offers suggestions on how to manage children’s time online and even goes so far as to say 14 is a good time for kids to get a cell phone.

But high school is an especially tumultuous time in the development of a teenager. They are just as likely if not more to withdraw from the world, either through social media, video games, or some other form of escapism. A phone would only exacerbate that. Further, the suggestions only treat the symptoms; the underlying cause remains relatively unknown. Certainly, everyone has their favorite political agenda, and are more than happy to co-opt these mental health issues to lend moral imperatives to their respective crusade.

To the carpenter, the whole world is a nail, and it’s easy to reframe an issue to take advantage of new data, new trends, or new crises. When you’re focused on how society has wronged you, any perceived slight is a good reason to tear it apart. And who feels more wronged than teenagers? Give them a popular cause and they’ll zealously support it just to fit in. They won’t stop until well into their 30’s when they start to question the relative worth of fitting in over finding out who they are and being themselves. If they ever question it. Young activists often find their ideals indistinguishable from their identity within a group and on occasion rarely move past that.

So what cause can we give the youth of today to positively channel their angst? Because rest assured, they will find something to throw their time and energy at. When they do, we have to be prepared to reap the rewards.



Cover Photo from Pumpic