Technology is rapidly overtaking every part of our lives. It’s a change that we couldn’t avoid even if we tried. However, even though it brings a plethora of benefits with it, technology also has some daunting side effects. Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable that we want to shield our children from it as long as we can.
Every generation has its struggle with technology. While our parents debated whether or not to let us watch television, we are now faced with a similar dilemma – do we give our kids their own smartphones? And, if so, when? At what age should you give your child a smartphone?
The most common agreement among many experts and parents alike is the 8th grade. However, the ideal age varies from child to child, and we should take benefits and risk of kids using cellphones into consideration.
Benefits and Risk of Kids Using a Cellphone
There are a lot of factors that we need to consider. Primarily, we want our child to develop into a well-rounded individual. Staring at a screen for several hours a day isn’t an ideal way to accomplish that. Furthermore, a smartphone opens the door to unsuitable content and contact. Not to mention that it can be addictive.
A toss-up between the pros and cons
However, we must also consider the benefits smart technology offers. Problem-solving games, educational videos, and other beneficial content that could help are more than appropriate.
And then, we can’t forgo the social aspect. Our kids will often cry out “Everyone else has one.” Although this is an argument that stands on shaky legs, we can’t ignore the side effects that it implies. No one wants their kids to feel left out. So, some of us might buckle under social pressure and give our children a smartphone before they are ready for it.
But again, the question remains – when are they ready? Unfortunately, there is no threshold that our children have to cross that will make them automatically prepared to take on such a big responsibility. Age is just a number after all, and an arbitrary one at that. Each child is different and has unique needs, expectations, and tools that make coping with the burden (and it is a burden when you objectively look at it) of a smartphone a unique process for each kid.
The optimistic Pros
Even though smartphones are a dreaded device for most parents, with all the stigma surrounding them, they are actually handy. Well, in some cases, of course.
Availability vs. accessibility
When we give our kids a phone that they can carry around with them, we are sure that we can reach them at all times. This is one of the significant perks of smartphones. We can call them and find out what they are doing at any moment. Furthermore, our kids also have the means to contact us, should they need any help or if anything goes wrong.
This perk is one of the major ones that usually sways the parents into allowing their kids to have a phone. In today’s modern age, accessibility isn’t a luxury; it’s a given. We don’t know how to live in a world where people aren’t one call away at all times. Therefore, it’s hard for us to accept that we can reach anyone but our kids. So, we give them a phone.
What’s more, handy apps like “Find my friends” gives most parents a piece of mind, as they know they can locate their kids with just a few clicks.
Smartphones have done a lot to make the learning process more fun and more accessible over the last decade. School-age children can play and learn at the same time, while younger kids can also benefit from simple educational tools and games. Informative apps like encyclopedias, flashcards, and interactive textbooks are a sure way to get your kid interested in learning and homework. Of course, the crucial detail is that the usage is monitored and approved by the parents.
The Dreaded Cons
Giving your child a smartphone, even just to play with for a short while, is a slippery slope. Before we know it, we’ll see a “zoned-out” vacant expression on our kids’ faces. This is especially true for small kids. Yes, we have all been guilty of shoving a shiny, fun thing, like a smartphone, into the hands of our kids to keep them occupied for a couple of minutes. But, when a couple of minutes turns into hours every day – we’re in for a world of pain. Here’s why.
One of the biggest arguments for waiting to give your child a smartphone is the fact that kids can get easily addicted to it. The addictive component is especially strong with small, impressionable kids. That’s why some experts advise parents to wait until the child is old enough to earn their own smartphone.
Again, there is no magical answer to the question of what age should you give your child a smartphone. However, waiting until they are 15 or 16 so they can earn it is a bit overly ambitious.
Ideally, most of us would love it if we could restrict technology use before the teen years. But, is that possible? Probably not. Still, we do have to do our best to hold out as long as possible.
At what age should you give your child a smartphone to avoid the risk of addiction?
Unfortunately, the addictive component is a massive risk for young kids. Not to mention, the younger the child is, the higher the risk of stagnating significant brain development processes is. The overstimulation that causes the brain to release the ‘feel good’ hormones is a double-edged sword. Not only does it dull the child’s senses to other stimuli but it also makes the child crave it.
A gateway to cyberbullying, distractions and avoiding social interaction
Aside from being addictive, smartphones can also hinder the social adaptation of children. Kids go out less and socialize less face-to-face with their peers. Now, mobile devices that have internet access allow the children to still communicate with one another. However, that kind of communication is an altered version of real-life interaction.
Furthermore, the smartphone with internet access can be a terrifying thing. Kids can be really mean to each other, and the fact that they have access to communication devices around the clock brings cyber bullying to an unimaginable level. Therefore, it’s best not to allow them such liberties before the 8th grade.
Those of us who are scared we’ll buckle down before that – there’s a simple solution. There’s strength in numbers. The chances are that other parents are struggling with the same issues as we are. So why not make a pact with the parents of our kid’s friends? That solves a multitude of problems like social pressure.
In the end, it’s all about rules and communication
At what age should you give your child a smartphone is a loaded question. However, there’s an issue even more important than that one. We can’t just give our kids cell phones and be done with them. Open communication and firm rules are the solid grounds that will ensure that our kids don’t overuse or abuse the devices.