Why Generation Y needs a smartphone intervention

Why Generation Y needs a smartphone intervention

Summary: Should mobile device management be strictly for enterprises? Perhaps we should consider it as an enabling technology for parents so they can protect their children.

SHARE:
teens-smartphones-600-600x500-purp

Based on some of my most recent writings, one might think that I'm blaming all the ills of society on the smartphone.

I'm not going to sugar coat this. I think the over-use of these devices is degrading the quality of our interpersonal relationships and is threatening to retard our collective developmental skills.

Yes, they can be powerful tools that enable us to do some very positive things when applied judiciously, particularly when used for information retrieval, business and personal communications, personal organization, and time management, but not everyone has the discipline to use them strictly as a tool. Few of us use them strictly as such. I certainly do not.

The devices are most certainly addictive, and we may not fully understand their true impact on our way of life for a generation, when the very youngest of our general population begins to enter the workforce and we are able to get some real metrics on just how well they've been educated, as well as the perceived value of their acquired skill sets.

Those of us who are adults can and probably should try to take steps to control our behavior in the use of these devices. I for one have already started to do so, and I struggle with it daily.

But adults are fully capable of making conscious choices and taking responsibility for them. Their personalities and minds are "fully formed", so to speak, and their actions are judged accordingly by other adults.

Today's kids, despite the level of sophistication we might wish to ascribe to them, still have room to develop and they still do not fully understand the consequences of their actions. Their early exposure to smartphones, mobile technology, and all the trappings that go along with them put them most at risk.

I am not a parent. But I truly feel it is the responsibility of the head(s) of the household to make conscious decisions about which technologies and how much of it their kids should be exposed to in order to protect them as well as to foster their development in a positive way and keep them engaged in healthy social situations.

The internet and social networks are a scary place. I alluded to some of this in my earlier writings regarding smartphones and social media that I've linked to above. However, it was not until this last week that I truly learned just how scary and how dangerous it can be for younger people.

It's my personal opinion that nobody under the age of 18 should be permitted to own a smartphone, at least in their current implementation until fully emancipated adulthood.

Indeed, every generation has its challenges and every generation also has its critics. When I was coming of age, my parents as well as their parents said my generation was lazy, that we played too many video games or watched too much TV, that our music was horrible and had no cultural value and was destroying the fabric of society or what have you. I had my own personal challenges, to be sure.

Despite all of this, I turned out fairly normal.I have a good job, I'm a home owner, and I've been happily married for 18 years. But back then, it was much, much easier for my parents to protect me and to set a good example.

Yes, we had bullies and there were cliques and I got into fights. Yes, there was always the danger of drugs, although not the kind of stuff being passed around today. Yes, as teenagers, we had access to pornography, although it was arguably milder and it had to be procured via illicit channels. Yes, there was teenage sex.

Yes, we thought our parents were dumber than we were and oblivious to our goings-on.

However, nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for what I read in Vanity Fair this week by Nancy Jo Sales regarding the current teenage sex culture driven by internet pornography and smartphone-induced peer pressure on social networks.

And while indeed disturbing, Business Insider's revelation of teen emoji-speak replacing traditional forms of communication was utterly pale by comparison.

What is a parent to do? Well, I think it's high time we intervened. We must finally draw a line in the sand. And I feel the technology companies that provide the devices, software, and services need to step up their game to empower the parent to keep their children from harm's way.

Certainly, parents can choose not to give their children smartphones at all, or choose an age where they feel their kids can take actual responsibility for their use. It's my personal opinion that nobody under the age of 18 should be permitted to own a smartphone, at least in their current implementation until fully emancipated adulthood.

Every mom and dad should have the power to be their own NSA and run their own PRISM program as far as their children are concerned.

That may sound awfully draconian, and it may submit the current generation of children to being social outcasts in their own peer groups, but that is what I believe is the safest way to go.

The only way that my mind could be changed about this is if parents could be equipped with the very same mobile device management (MDM) technology that we seek to equip our enterprises with, and to provide them with the same kind of "big brother" tool sets, albeit in miniature, that everyone is now accusing the NSA and the US government of violating our rights with.

Sound extreme? Let me put it this way: I don't believe children and teens have rights per se, because they aren't yet adults. They are afforded privileges by their parents, who nurture them, provide them with a home, clothe and feed them, and pay the bills. They also have a right to be protected by law. Period.

Just like enterprises can and should dictate with BYOD policies which apps and services can be installed on devices used on their networks, parents should be able to control which applications and services can be installed on their children's mobile devices, and when as well as how they can be used.

Parents or legal guardians should be able to observe the full data feeds of what their children post and receive via Facebook, text, email, and any other application or service used on their devices. It is a parent's right to "violate" their child's notion of "privacy".

Every mom and dad should have the power to be their own NSA and run their own PRISM program as far as their children are concerned.

They should be able to do this at any time and on any network with strict granular levels of control. This includes content filtering, as well as alert notifications for content and events that exceed desired thresholds.

If you don't want your kids to have access to certain types of sites or apps from their smartphones at certain times of day or using any other criterion, you should be able to log into a management portal provided by your carrier or your services provider to be able to easily do that with a wizard or a few button clicks.

[Update: Simon Crosby, CTO of Bromium, suggests Cisco Meraki, which is a cloud-based service that is free for non-commercial use.]

Parents should also be able to override, moderate, queue, or undo whatever their children do to the extent that the application or service supports it with their native APIs.

And, yes, I'm talking about you, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, G+, and Twitter.

And just as we submit children in our schools to "sex ed" to inform them about what the consequences of their actions are should they engage in such activities without parental knowledge and without taking adequate precautions, I'm also of the opinion that our educational system should develop course-ware that provides social networking education informing them about what happens when they make bad choices online.

Today, these tool sets do not exist. But parents should demand them this instant.

Should parents be empowered to control how their children use mobile technology and social networking? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Smartphones, Mobility, Security, Education

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

19 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Hmmm, sounds like you think something like AOL's parental controls

    is needed for smartphones. Maybe something such as that would work. That's what
    I had on my kids back in the old days. My kids didn't like it, but it sure helped me keep
    an eye on what they were doing when they were on AOL.
    It also goes without saying, there are going to be some that say we should trust our
    kids more, that being overly strict somehow restricts their growth. My kids grew up
    OK, and knew full well that I knew what they were doing online. As they grew older,
    then extra privileges were granted to them, along with warnings from me that any
    activities I felt went beyond appropriate would result in restrictions being placed on
    the things they were allowed to do. Only once or twice did I have to implement those
    restrictions. When the lesson about what was appropriate was learned, and the
    behavior was back inline, then less restrictions were put back in place.
    Parents do need these sorts of tools at their disposal, and they need to learn to use them.
    wizard57m-cnet
    • The Technology has outpaced Society's ability to manage it

      The author is right on. In an effort to ensure that are kids are not left behind in tomorrow's world we have exposed them to technology today that we the adults are just beginning to understand ourselves. The fact that Facebook, Instagram etc. feel that it is ok for 13 year olds to sing is ridiculous. Most 13 -18 year olds do not have filters to determine what is appropriate to post and what is not. MDM for the home would be great. It is suprising that non of the cellular vendors offer a content filtering service. Their network would be the perfect place for it. Meraki is ok but it is easily bypassed ( just read up on LAUSD's experience with the ill conceived ipad plan!). Unfortunately the cat is out of the bag. It is now too difficult for the same adults that told these kids that technology was wonderful to now say Whoops we made a mistake, Give it back. Hopefully someone will see the need for a good home mobile management solution and jump in if not for the greater good then at least to make a boatload of money!
      pwilliams@...
  • Yes there are solutions

    PLenty of them for android:

    Eg:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ea.mmwd.parent

    or

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.symantec.familysafety

    or

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.care4teen.lite

    Have you been sleeping under a stone Jason ?
    Alan Smithie
    • None of these are good solutions

      And none of them classify as true MDM as would be implemented in an enterprise environment.
      jperlow
      • Depends on your view.

        If they are the next Uber-Hacker then you are in trouble, if you want to spy on them openly and discuss what they have been up to with them then they are good enough.

        As a parent the real problem I find is how my kid is targeted by companies as the next consumer - I could write an entire thesis on the subject.

        But the real parents worry ? Road traffic, ask any parent.
        Alan Smithie
  • Seniors need support too!

    Great article. Howabout smartphone intervention for seniors in the future that are many times isolated and in need of support? Big market for Grey Panthers who at this time are feeling under attack by various political groups
    decosailor@...
  • Parents must start by picking a good school

    which entails buying a smaller house in a better school district or paying for private school. Everything else follows.
    ForeverSPb
    • Agreed!

      School choice is top of the list.

      Yes, you will find some who attended so-so schools and who succeeded. But, the rate of success for better schools is significantly better. I'm paying ~20k/yr to send my daughter through private schools. At minimum........she's more likely to find a good husband in her college, more likely, she will be well prepared for a decent law school.

      I have internet cameras in the public areas of her apt and she knows I watch her cell usage. Both have had a positive effect to mold her behavior.

      You have to give kids room to grow, but over-site is well worth the efforts.
      FATCAT23
  • Twitter Facebook Instagram Vine

    We've all been in Junior High and High School. Some of us not that long ago. Some a long long time ago. Cliques, Note passing, cheating on tests, and gossiping are part and parcel of being in Junior High and High School. Smart phones with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine blah blah are the methods used by kids today to gossip, pass notes, cheat on tests, and everything else kids did before smart phones.

    Not only that but kids in cliques and have instant contact with those of their cliques [gang more like it] where before smart phones, they would have to call or actually meet somewhere.

    I agree with the author, technology has hurt interpersonal face to face relationships, but I also think that if "adults" try to control access, kids will simply "find another way" as they have always done.

    I think the worst part is some of the junior high and high school kids as they become adults, never grow up past the high school mentality. That, continuing to have high school mentality as an adult, maybe fostered by "social media" is in my opinion, probably the worst characteristic for adults to have. Hopefully the kids grow up and can ask themselves the most pertinent question for themselves " what the heck am I doing"?
    CG IT
  • Twitter Facebook Instagram Vine

    We've all been in Junior High and High School. Some of us not that long ago. Some a long long time ago. Cliques, Note passing, cheating on tests, and gossiping are part and parcel of being in Junior High and High School. Smart phones with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine blah blah are the methods used by kids today to gossip, pass notes, cheat on tests, and everything else kids did before smart phones.

    Not only that but kids in cliques and have instant contact with those of their cliques [gang more like it] where before smart phones, they would have to call or actually meet somewhere.

    I agree with the author, technology has hurt interpersonal face to face relationships, but I also think that if "adults" try to control access, kids will simply "find another way" as they have always done.

    I think the worst part is some of the junior high and high school kids as they become adults, never grow up past the high school mentality. That, continuing to have high school mentality as an adult, maybe fostered by "social media" is in my opinion, probably the worst characteristic for adults to have. Hopefully the kids grow up and can ask themselves the most pertinent question for themselves " what the heck am I doing"?
    CG IT
  • Re: Smart Devices are a "Technological Plague"

    I have been in the IT field for close to 40 years and am a Sr. Software Engineer with a world class wine importer. I have been through dozens of fads and whims with technology over the years, with a good majority of them falling by the wayside from lack of adoption.

    "Smart Devices" on the other hand are something that should have never been but have taken the world by storm. They are for all intents and purposes, the heroine of the technology world, with recent documented, medical research demonstrating how dangerous they are to the brains of both the young and old as they literally re-wire such organs to be unable to perform long periods of deep concentration. The outlooks and behaviors of the Millennial Y Generation is a testament to this fact and it is increasingly the same with older adults as well.

    While everyone is amazed in the tech-industry at the attraction of such devices and the "new era" of mobile computing, it may behoove the technical community to take another look at such a phenomenon with the perspective towards the catastrophic sociological damage these devices have caused and are continuing to cause. The evidence is all around us...
    snaidamast
  • I dont get it.

    From article: "I am not a parent" and "What are parent's to do? We've got to" blah blah.

    Uh, hello. If you aren't a parent "we've" got got to do nothing. Why don't you let actual parents worry about it?

    Another article like the stone tablet from thousands of years ago moaning about kids.
    me@...
    • I dont get it.

      "Uh, hello. If you aren't a parent "we've" got got to do nothing. Why don't you let actual parents worry about it?

      Very simple answer, everybody needs to be involved & care as well as set examples.

      When was the last time you walked outside your front door & saw most everyone walking, driving, eating & yes even dancing & they have the smart phone out - not just the kids but their parents & others as well.
      cwnurse
      • I dont get it.

        I forgot to add - most parents don't actually care, probably because they are too busy doing the same thing.
        cwnurse
  • We have a simple solution at our house

    My child uses a smart phone, but its very clear that the phone is mine, not theirs. I can, and often do, simple ask them to give me their phone so I can look through it. I have their passwords to the sites I need to know about (which are the big peer sites like Facebook and Instagram), and I often scan through them and talk to my child about what i've read. They know that I am everywhere they are.

    Of course they can always talk to people at school and get into all sorts of trouble i won't know about, but when it comes to the big boards, they know and all their friends know when they talk to my kid, they are talking to me too. Even my child's email address is in the format xxx_andparents@yyy.com. So anyone sending them an email know they are sending it to me as well.

    And we've never had a problem with any sort of bullying or bad suggestions online.

    The kids can always do peer pressure in person, but its more difficult to do, more difficult to avoid humanism when you're staring at someone in the face. Even talking on the phone, where you say something and you get to hear the person's reactions right there, make it hard to avoid that person's feelings.

    They get their own phone when they have enough money to pay for it. As long as I pay the bill, its my phone and i can ask for it any time, no matter how old. Because, they know, I can cut them off with one phone call, and have done so.
    A Gray
  • Not just smart phones

    I agree with the author and comments others have made concerning the current "connection epidemic". In our house we take it a step further and include anything internet. All our computers are in open public areas of the house. No one, including my wife or I, does emails or browses in secret. We have made it clear to our daughter that her cell phone, which is the older flip type not a smart phone, is for communication not gaming or connecting to Facebook or one of the other online vanity press wannabe's. My wife checks our daughter's cell phone. I monitor her internet usage visually and with software I have installed. None of it is secret. Our daughter has so far accepted the situation with a few discussions on her friend's having "more trusting parents" but our relationship is solid so far. I promised my daughter when she was born that I would do my best to never lie to her and only table, for a later age, discussions that are not age appropriate. I have had to listen and answer to things I wish were different but so far the openness has paid off with her being open with me. Well as far as I know.
    chaos213
  • is this your screw driver?

    the pace of technology is a marvel of a stepping stone into the new century. it produces tools giving unparalleled access to information.
    but tools need to be used properly.
    do not use a screw driver in place of a q tip.
    Sunon@...
  • Get a dumb TracFone

    For the teenager, so he/she can call home in an emergency. Those things are cheap and have no Internet access for stuff like p0rn and email. $20 gives three months service and one hour talk time. Then, when they turn 18 they can do whatever they want if they can afford it.
    arminw
  • Tools?

    Putting a password on a computer and monitoring your child's use of electronics is quite sufficient. Oh, but you probably are referring to the parents who cannot be bothered to take care of their kids? Hmm, lets see - snip daddy, tie mommy - rats, that would infringe their RIGHT to poorly raise children. What are we to do in a FREE society? I know - we can create a whole bunch of new LAWS that MANDATE the private sector provide the tools that you say we need. We can penalize the high-tech industry by taxing them until they provide them (as we know this is constitutional per the U.S. Supreme Court decision 11-393 National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius).
    HackerJ