Family Fundamentals: Use of cell phones can help, hurt parent/teen relationship (for October 2011)

Oct 19, 2011

 

Our daughter just entered high school and wants us to get her a cell phone. I realize that most high school students do have a cell phone now, but I’m concerned that it will cause more problems than it’s worth. What are the pros and cons?

It’s true that most teens do have a cell phone now. National surveys in 2008 and 2010 indicate that three-quarters or more have cell phones.

A study recently published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking examined the communications dynamics between parents and teens related to cell phone use. Its findings offer some insight into how cell phone communication between parents and teens can hurt or help their relationship.

The study, “No Crossed Wires: Cell Phone Communication in Parent-Adolescent Relationships,” surveyed nearly 200 families — one parent and one teen (ages 13 to 19) from each family. All involved in the survey had owned and used a cell phone for at least six months.

Researchers wondered if cell phones could actually facilitate communication between parents and teens, or if frequent calling from parents, for example, would be seen as intrusive.

The survey asked both parents and teens about the nature of their cell-phone communication with each other, and also examined measures of self-esteem (of both parents and teens) and other dimensions of the relationship. Among its findings:

  • Both parents and teens reported a closer relationship when teens tended to use the cell phone to ask parents for advice or other type of support.
  • Parents also reported better relationships when the teen used the phone to check in, ask permission for something or a similar type of call.
  • Both teens and parents reported greater conflict when parents tended to call their teens when upset or angry or to check their progress on schoolwork.
  • Parents calling just to check in, to say “hi,” or to talk when they’re happy about something was linked with greater communication between parents and teens.
  • Both parents and teens had lower self-esteem when parents called when they were upset or to track school work. Teens with higher self-esteem tended to use cell phones to get guidance from parents.

The bottom line? If you get your daughter a cell phone, make sure you don’t use it solely to try to monitor her whereabouts and activities. That could backfire and damage your relationship. But when used appropriately, they can be a great tool for connecting and staying in touch.

Family Fundamentals is a monthly column on family issues. It is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Family Fundamentals, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1044, or filipic.3@cfaes.osu.edu.

Dear Subscriber: This column was reviewed by Kara Newby, family life program coordinator for Ohio State University Extension in Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology.


Writers

Martha Filipic
614-292-9833
filipic.3@cfaes.osu.edu

Sources

Kara Newby
OSU Extension, Family Life

Related content
My OSU Extension
Joyce Hughes

“It think what OSU Extension has brought to my neighbors, and to my neighborhood, is hope - something that people didn't have before.”

Joyce Hughes
President, Weinland Park Community Civic Association

Signature Programs

Signature Programs

 

Ohio State University Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all research and related educational programs are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, HIV/AIDS status, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. This statement is in accordance with United States Civil Rights Laws and the USDA.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration; Associate Dean, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Director, Ohio State University Extension; and Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership.

For Deaf and Hard of Hearing, please contact Ohio State University Extension using your preferred communication (e-mail, relay services, or video relay services). Phone 1-800-750-0750 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. Inform the operator to dial 614-292-6181.