Smartphones and Tablets

For Whom are They Appropriate, and How to Use Them Properly

The smartphone is a revolutionary, all-in-one device including a computer, monitor, camera, DVD and telephone, with the added feature of mobility such as a GPS antenna.  A smartphone can connect to the Internet via a WiFi or local wireless connection.  Most smartphones come with built-in applications to access contemporary media such as  music, videos, and Facebook.  A smartphone is very useful and an interactive user experience.  Its usefulness increases all the time, with the development of new applications in other areas of life.

Adult smartphone use varies greatly from that of youth.  While adults use smartphones for phone calls, email and applications, youth use smartphones to communicate with peers via Facebook and WhatsApp, and as an entertainment device to view videos and take photos.  A smartphone is fast becoming a must-have device, and in the process, many youth are exposed to indecent and harmful content.

A smartphone is a device that contains many inherent drawbacks (depending, of course, on the individual and the usage).  Here are some of them:

  • It generates a need for constant virtual stimulation
  • It inhibits one ability to connect to people, one's environment, and to events taking place
  • It facilitates isolation with negative and harmful content
  • It develops a need for constant updates
  • It causes restlessness
  • It creates dependency and can lead to addiction
  • It reduces physical activity
  • It creates side effects such as "ghost vibration" (a sense that one's smartphone is vibrating even when it is far from the body), back pain and scoliosis due to a bent posture.  Sometimes it causes headaches and nausea as a result of overexposure to radiation.

How to Master Your Smartphone

The first step is to talk about the problem weighing the pros and cons of a smartphone.  Youth feel owning a smartphone is critical, and the smartphone and content industries invest fortunes to appeal to youth.  Some say that young people should be allowed to struggle with technology and experiment, despite the risks.  Yet others feel that youth will have no chance in the face of the massive smartphone and content industries.  There are no simple solutions.  And they vary according to one's personal values and circumstances.  Here are some recommendations:

  1. As mentioned above, the first step is to review the pros and cons, including the health consequences, of owning a smartphone, so one can make an informed decision.
  2. A high level of maturity is required not to develop smartphone dependency, and it is recommended not to give a smartphone to girls under 15 or boys under 16.  The health implications are also greater below these ages when significant growth and development occurs.  Yet, even beyond the 15/16 ages, youth will be challenged by a smartphone, and there are those who choose not to give one even at this age.  Parents need to determine when exactly their child is mature enough to act responsibly and in good judgment to warrant smartphone use.  But often social pressure forces parents to give in to the accepted norms in their communities.
  3. Partial solutions exist such as the installation of a filtering application, limiting browsing time, and determining a permitted applications list.  In addition, one can install an activity reporting application on the smartphone.  (See our list of recommended applications on the Technology Tools Page).  But it is important to note that most teens can circumvent these methods.  Unless the decision is made with your child's understanding and cooperation, it is unlikely to work.  It is also important to emphasize the health and behavioral implications with your child, in addition to the matter of content.
  4. It is possible to buy quality smartphones with all the features youth like – a touch screen, high resolution camera, and music player- but with no Internet connection or access to online application stores.  
  5. Consider buying a used smartphone and having its wireless network antenna (WiFi) removed by a  smartphone technician.  The phone can then be connected to a filtered Internet connection through a through cellular phone company (e.g., such as Internet Rimon's "Green Maslul" through Cellcom).  Here too, your child's understanding and cooperation is important, since s/he can easily replace the SIM card with a friend's and then regain unfiltered Web access.
  6. If there is complete trust and open communication on the subject, one can buy a smartphone with an Internet filtering package through a cellular company, as noted above.
  7. If it is decided to buy a smartphone without any limitation, it is strongly recommended that a conversation is held to raise awareness about proper use of the device.
  8. Keep in mind the potential risks resulting from exposure to cellular radiation.  Although the data is inconclusive, it is recommended to minimize exposure as much as possible at ages of physical development.
  9. Empowering your child to withstand peer pressure and make the right decision for him/her, is the best protection from the hazards of smartphones.


Tablets are thin, lightweight computers whose primary use is for leisure and entertainment.  The relatively large screen of the device makes for pleasurable viewing of movies or games, providing a very strong virtual experience.  They are easily portable and can connect to a broad selection of content located on the Internet or on the tablet itself.  Like smartphones, many apps can be downloaded.  Most tablets connect to the Internet through WiFi networks.

Tablets are fast becoming highly popular with youth and present risks of developing dependency and addiction, and easy access to harmful content.  

How to Master Your Tablet

  1. As mentioned above, conduct a conversation about the pros and cons of the tablet.
  2. For Android Operating Systems 4 and above, install Netspark filtering software, which includes a time-limiting feature and the ability to block selected applications.  (Again, important that this done with the understanding and cooperation of the child.)
  3. One of the most important steps is to set time limits for using the device, which can be done with applications such as Netspark, Kids Place or Kido'z. These applications are most suitable for elementary aged children.  The last two applications do not filter content, but are effective at locking everything that is undesirable, and a desktop can be created on which appear only approved applications.  
  4. Establish an arrangement with a child that the tablet will remain in parental possession during non-use times.  Establish with your child agreed purposes for use of the tablet.
  5. Review the tablet's browser history if you suspect viewing of unapproved or indecent content.