When to give your child their first smartphone is a big family decision, and the era of innovative tech can hardly be ignored these days. Your son or daughter may already have friends with smartphones, and they may be putting the pressure on you to make a decision. Here’s How To Know If Your Child Is Ready For a Smartphone.
There are a lot of positives for child smartphone use. You can have 24/7 access to your child, and there are even GPS apps that allow you to even track them as well. They can also reach out to you anytime, from anywhere.
However, there are also considerable negatives concerning child smartphone use as well. Studies have shown smartphones to affect sleep, as well as diminish attention span. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that adolescent smartphone use is an emerging factor in sleep quality and quantity.
Your son or daughter will also have the Internet at their fingertips, which may expose them to unsavory material their budding minds simply are not ready for.
Giving your child a smartphone is a challenge for both them and you. You will need to set boundaries for use that could cause a butting of heads in the household. A new smartphone comes with new responsibilities. There are measures of self-control that they may, or may not be ready for. So how do you know when the time is right?
What is the Right Age for Child Smartphone Use?
Knowing the right age for child smartphone use is tricky.
A 2012 study by the National Consumers League found that 56 percent of children between the age of 8 and 12 were given a smartphone by their parents. The study’s data seems alarming, especially for children aged 8 and 9. Could smartphone use before the age of 10 be a recipe for disaster?
As parents, you should have a fairly good idea of your child’s responsibility level, because having a cellphone is all about responsibility and accountability. The study did find that the average child got their first smartphone at the age of 10 or 11. These ages also coincide with a transition to junior high school for some kids.
John Breyault, coauthor of the study noted that there simply is no “right” age. The decision to give your child a smartphone is simply a judgment call. Only you know the inner workings of your child, and this is the first step to the smartphone decision.
Smartphone Use May Meet Family Needs
Handing over a handheld to your child could meet a lot of family needs.
Giving your child a smartphone may become a necessity in certain cases, whether calling for a pickup after soccer practice, or getting in touch when it matters. Having the entire family connected could be beneficial for everyone, making scheduling and communication more effective and efficient.
You may have concerns over your child’s lack of communication with you after getting their first smartphone. This is a natural concern, especially since your child will be connected to their favorite social media networks 24/7. However, many parents find connecting with their kids via social media apps a blessing.
Avoiding smartphone use at certain times, like during family meals or outings is important, but during working days, you may find it reassuring when you get that mid-day text.
A 2015 review of teen social media and technology use by PewReserachCenter found that 71 percent of teens use more than one social media network. Being connected with your child on all their social media platforms also allows you to see what is happening in their everyday life. In many ways, you don’t need to wait for your child to open up about their daily happenings, because a double frown emoji says a lot.
Discuss the Responsibilities with Your Child
The benefits and dangers of giving your child a smartphone should be discussed as a family. This conversation will be an easy one to have, especially since your child has most likely brought it up a million times already. Before having the big smartphone discussion as a family, you should do your own homework.
For example, the dating and “hook-up” app Tinder allowed teens 13 and over to download and signup. Small details about apps and online companies like Tinder are essential to know. Tinder has recently changed their 13 and over user policy to 18 and over, due to safety concerns involving teen exposure to sex.
However, there are plenty more apps out there just like that one. Setting ground rules for your child’s smartphone use is vital. And keeping a close eye on what they are browsing or downloading is also an essential parental control.
Make no mistake, giving your child a cellphone may make you feel like you are a CIA operative at times. A 2013 study by software security company McAfee found that 70 percent of pre-teens are hiding their online activities.
Discussing the responsibilities and safety concerns together as a family is the first mature step to bringing a new smartphone user into the household network. The big decision of giving your child a smartphone, and at what age, is all about parenting.
It is as much of a responsibility for you as it is for your child. Being a fantastic parent while keeping those lines of communication open will make your decision much easier.
Over to you! Have you any tips or advice to add? Does your child have a smartphone? Let us know in the comments below.