When will they be ready?
Rites of passage have certainly changed over the years. When I was growing up Sweet Sixteen parties, getting the keys to the car, Mitzvahs, Quinceañeras and high school graduation parties were the milestones. Today, the gateway to adulthood seems to be marked by one simple purchase: a smartphone.
As children get smartphones at an ever-younger age (on average age 10), parents are fearful to open Pandora’s Box. At some point, parents will have to face the question of when to get their child a smartphone. The issue typically arises during elementary school,when other kids start carrying phones to school.
THE PROS AND CONS
• Parents can use smartphones as“electronic leashes” to track down their children.
• Kids can use educational apps to help with homework. They often find it a more engaging way to learn. Students learn best in ways that makes them comfortable, and smartphones are intuitive tools for young people.
• Smartphones provide unlimited access to the web – the good and the bad. The downsides include exposure to inappropriate content,child predators and online bullying. Children can be very naïve. Imagine a 7-year-old befriending Cutegirl15 on Instagram. They would be thrilled, but also be in danger. This makes some parents press the hold button on smartphone access.
• Online activities are permanent. Kids who are too young or immature to fully grasp this notion may end up leaving a negative digital footprint. This could hurt them later in life when they apply for college or a scholarship.
• And last but not least ... too much smartphone use can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. This means less time in nature and less time face-to-face socializing.
So what is the answer? There are many factors to consider before you jump on the smartphone bandwagon. The child’s maturity level is key when considering smartphone access. Experts agree that in most cases, 12 or 13 is the earliest appropriate age. Typically around age 12 kids tend become more influenced by their peers. However, research is showing over 56% of kids between the ages 8-12 already have a smart phone. I think that age is going to trend even younger. Parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids to play with.
The bottom line … no two kids are the same, and there’s no magic number. A kid’s age is not as important as their own responsibility or maturity level. As smartphones enter playgrounds, experts suggest to considering using a phone as a way to teach kids responsibility and promote independence. Having a phone is not a child’s right, but it’s an opportunity to use it to teach. Ask your child, ‘Do you really want this? Then lets find a suitable way for you to work for it.’
One popular option is to start the child off with basic mobile devices, like feature phones that can only send text messages or place phone calls, and then you assess whether they can use those devices with responsibly. There are also some phone settings that can help
keep children safe when they do get smartphones.
For iPhones, Apple offers features that parents can enable or disable, including the ability to restrict the Safari browser from gaining access to adult content, and the ability to prevent apps from using cellular data. The iPhone’s parental controls live inside the Settings app in a menu labeled Restrictions.
Android phones lack similar built-in parental control settings, though there are many apps in the Google Play App Store that let parents add in restrictions. Qustodio, lets parents monitor their children’s text messages, disable apps at certain times of day or even shut off a smartphone remotely. While that can be an aggressive approach to restricting a child’s smartphone, a parents job does not always make them popular.