It’s a question parents have debated for over a decade: At what age should their kids be allowed to have their own cell phones? The answer varies from parent to parent and often depends on how busy the family’s schedule is as well as the maturity level of the child. Also, gifting smartphone has become a fashion for many parents.
The reality is that most kids have mobile cellular devices well before high school. A recent survey has found that 56 percent of children ages 10 to 13 have a smartphone, while a shockingly high 25% of children ages 2 to 5 have a smartphone and are addicted to it.
Phone addiction has become one of the biggest concern for parents. Mr. Paul says, “It made me really sad when I realized that my infant son is addicted to iPad. Earlier this month, one morning at around 4 am me and my wife were woken up by our 3-year-old boy, Ayush.
‘Dad,’ he announced, ‘I need the iPad.’
‘It’s the middle of the night, go to sleep’ I told him.
Getting out of bed in the morning, I noticed the white iPad, which I had left to charge overnight on the sofa next to our bed, had vanished.
I walked to the sitting room. There sat Ayush, cross-legged on the floor, with the stolen device in his hands. He was playing a noisy video game.
When I took the iPad away, he began to cry. Then he started screaming: ‘I want it back!’ Repeatedly. The tantrum continued so long I could barely feed him breakfast.” Gadget addiction can lead to many physical and mental problem
Below points will help you decide when to finally get your kid a smartphone.
How will the phone be used?
So, you’re sitting around the dinner table and your 10-years-old brings up the subject of getting her own iPhone. Deciding that she is too young for a cellphone, without giving it a second thought, your immediate response may be to shut her down. But before you say no, you should question why she wants a smartphone.
“The real question is, ‘What is the phone for?’, not at what age the child should be using it,” says Nikhil Mehrotra, additional professor of clinical psychology and founder of the Service for Healthy Use of Technology clinic in Delhi. “If the child is very active in team sports and there are a lot of logistics or emergencies, that is a very good reason to have a smartphone,” says Mehrotra.
Of course, your son or daughter may simply want a smartphone for its social benefits. They may ask for their own smartphones just because their classmates have it.
Nowadays, there are a lot of educational apps that can help teach children everything from basic language to maths. This also plays a role in any parent’s decision-making process.
Emotional maturity required
According to the experts in the field of child psychology and development, there is no universal age at which a child is ready for a smartphone. Mehrotra mentioned that introducing your child to mobile technology at a young age will provide them with the kind of solid foundation they need to function in the increasingly digital world. However, he pointed out that parents should know about their children’s emotional and physical maturity before handing them a smartphone.
Helping or hurting development?
There is no evidence to suggest that smartphones impact children’s social development. There have though been studies that point to excessive screen time as being problematic. There is also evidence that technology can provide very effective learning experiences, especially when children don’t have other types of positive cognitive and emotional stimulation.
Sachin Verma, a father of one, said he tries to keep his iPhone in his pocket while he is around his 2-year-old son. However, Sachin also admitted using his phone as a distraction tool during particularly stressful situations. “We will give a phone to him when we visit a doctor as he is scared of going there,” he said.
Still, Sachin, who said he would like to wait until his son is 7 or 8 years old before giving him a handset of his own, is skeptical of a phone’s ability to serve as a learning tool.
“Kids are wired to learn from other humans, not from animated displays,” Sachin said.
Although there is clearly no firm answer as to when a child should get his or her first smartphone, experts agree that safety is more important when a child does eventually get one.
A father himself, Mehrotra stresses that parents should have a conversation with their children outlining exactly what they will be doing with their phone.
“No child should use a smartphone or the Internet without being prepared with an understanding of the potential issues of privacy, permanence, searchability and netiquette”
Mehrotra said parents should create a contract with their children to discuss what the phone is for (and what it’s not for) and come to an agreement. Kids should also understand the implications of sharing online. “There is no such thing as ‘private’ on the Internet,” he said.
To help prevent their children from sharing private information online, parents should implement parental controls on their children’s handsets. Parental control app like Nischint Parental Control helps parents to monitor the activity on their child’s device, set usage limits, block apps and much more.
Child psychology experts don’t have anything against smartphones. In fact, they say these devices can be useful learning tools and can help parents stay in touch with their children. As kids approach middle school, most parents should feel comfortable giving Junior a device of his own, provided he demonstrates the necessary emotional maturity. However, parents should sit down with their kids and teach them how to responsibly use their devices. Parents should discuss the dangers of sexting and send photos of themselves, as well as how to act as good digital citizens.
Remember: Children will learn digital behavior by watching you. “If you don’t want your kid overusing their phones, honor the boundaries you want them to follow, Sachin said. “Don’t bring your smartphone to the dinner table, don’t text while you drive and don’t ignore them while using the Internet.”