As this age has grown more and more technologically bound, it becomes more necessary to assimilate to the needs of the time, regardless of your own upbringing. Children are now becoming literate with smartphones and tablets as early as age 2 or 3. Even though us adults raised in a different generation may be wary or inexperienced with technology and its effects during childhood, it is the way of the future. It’s time to be proactive and make a plan for it.
Today it is not unreasonable for children and teens to have their own cell phones. A study conducted by the National Consumers League in 2012 found that 60% of parents had offered their child a cell phone by the age of 10 or 11, and that number is on the rise. At least half of these are smartphones. It’s even becoming more prevalent for 4, 5, and 6 year olds to be given a cell phone. But, how young is too young? You want to be able to give your child a means of communication, but are they ready for the responsibility?
This is obviously a case-by-case scenario, and the decision rests solely on the parents to determine if their child is ready for a cell phone. And if so, then is it reasonable or necessary for them to have a smartphone. Children need to be responsible and mature enough to handle the ownership of a valuable possession, navigate the dangers of the internet, and use discretion to use the device appropriately.
There are many reasons you may decide to give your child a phone. Probably the primary reason most parents do is so they can know where their child is and to communicate about pickups. Kids have school, extracurricular activities, parties, and social visits, and it can be overwhelming to keep in contact without their having a personal cell phone.
Another benefit to your child having a cellphone is for them to have an emergency contact device when in need. It’s also a quick and easy way to touch base in your relationship when you’re separated, which didn’t used to be an option.
It’s also possible, and even probable, that your child will be left behind socially without a phone since it is so prevalent among teens as a social interface. Additionally, there are many educational apps that will be available at their fingertips. Some forward-thinking educators are even utilizing phones in the classroom.
Though there are many benefits to your child having a cell phone, there are also dangers. It is imperative to set ground rules before you give the child the phone. Be consistent in following through with the consequences. It is so much easier to delineate the rules as a precursor instead of trying to enforce them later. Keep the dialogue and the screen open between you. You’re the parent. It’s important for you to be apprised of what is happening on their phones.
Share with them your fears and don’t be afraid to use specific examples. They should be wary of online groomers and the accessibility of photos and videos they send out. Perhaps you should have periodic check-ins and discussions about the apps they use. Also, be responsible in teaching them not to cyberbully and ask if this is happening to them. You can also install filtering software on their phones. Transparency is key in keeping your children safe.