Everyday this question is heard all across the world as kids beg and plead for the newest and latest handheld gadget to hit the kid scene. For the younger crowd a Smartphone is more than just a telephone- it’s their access to social media, the Internet, and a gateway to connect with their friends. Unfortunately, cell phones are a privilege that comes with a lot of responsibility that many children and young teens aren’t ready to handle.
As parents, we all want our kids to have all the resources they need to be successful to thrive in the world. Before we rush out and hand over an expensive mini computer packaged into a sleek cell phone, we need to stop and analyze the situation. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves if this technology will harm or help our children’s development?
Granting Access To Media: An Age Guideline
Before we rush out and sign up for an expensive Smartphone plan for our youngest family members, we need to look at the recommended amount of technology that is advised for certain age groups. While our children clamor for more and more screen time, it is estimated that our children are using
four to five times the amount of recommended exposure to technology.
Those are scary numbers when we consider that children need face-to-face interaction and unstructured playtime to learn important life skills. Typically, it is recommended that we follow the 1-In-4-Rule with our children. This is a good rule of thumb that allows children one more hour of media access every four years.
To help us understand this, listed below are some general guidelines:
● Babies under the age of two- No access to technology is recommended, because it can interfere with language development. Luckily, this age group is generally satisfied with a ball or simple toy.
● Two to five year olds- During the early childhood years it is acceptable for one hour of screen time. On average it is estimated that children start using the Internet at three years of age. Educators strongly suggest using educational apps or games and limiting exposure to inappropriate material.
● Six to nine year olds- This age bracket is more independent and may use their devices for two hours a day. However, it is recommended to strictly monitor the sites and apps.
● Ten to twelve year olds- This age group is typically allotted three hours of screen time each day. With the average age child usually receiving their own cell phone around the age of 12, it is important to strictly monitor their activity.
● Thirteen to Seventeen year olds- It is estimated that 88 percent of our teens own a cell phone with 73 percent of those owning Smartphones. For young teens it is recommended to track a child’s phone, but pull back as a child shows maturity and good judgment skills.
How To Know If A Child Is Ready For A Cell Phone
Guidelines are a good starting point, but every child matures and handles responsibility at different rates. One size fits all doesn’t always apply to our kids. If your child is insisting on owning a cell phone, it is wise to ask the following five questions:
● Have we set ground rules and limits for technology use?
● Do our children accept and follow these rules?
● Is there a valid need to get in contact with you if there is an emergency?
● Are our children responsible and respectful enough to avoid using the cell phone during inappropriate times, like class or while driving?
● Have we taught them social media etiquette and given a sext talk?
7 Tips To Help Children Handle The Responsibility
If we answered “yes” to the majority of these questions, then it might be time to consider allowing our children the privilege of owning a cell phone of their own. To make this transition go smoothly and avoid future problems, follow these tips:
● Utilize the 20-20-20 rule. This guide helps avoid strain on our eyes by simply looking at something 20 feet away, every 20 seconds you are using a device for 20 seconds.
● Help a child set their privacy settings and location tracking devices.
● Make sure they know they should only talk to people they know in the real world.
● Discuss cyberbullying and let them know they should always seek an adult if a situation develops or they witness it happening.
● Stress how important their online presence is and that they should only post what they feel comfortable with their grandparents seeing.
● Pre-approve apps before downloading them onto a phone or device.
Above all else, if we decide to wait or give our children a Smartphone, we need to keep the communication lines open and encourage dialogue about technology issues that face our children. We live in a world that is full of cyberbullying, oversharing, and sexting and we need to prepare our children for these digital threats. Experts agree that we need to start these conversations while a child is young and before they ever swipe or tap a screen.
At what age do you think it is acceptable for a child to buy a Smartphone?