Recent technological advances have brought a significant change in how we communicate, teach and entertain ourselves. Smartphones above all have broadened our horizons in regards to what we can do. Phones are no longer just about communicating with each other; they can be diaries for us to write down our thoughts, share daily issues and experiences with our loved ones, find whatever we want through the web, solve problems and so on. But just because something is advanced it doesn’t mean everyone is required to have to experience those advancements immediately, much less when it comes to the way in which we teach our children.
In a way, it feels like a cycle. Worries about managing children’s use of smartphones are similar to the ones that sprouted back when TV, and later computers, became a thing. They’re all technological instruments that can be important to a child’s understanding of their world but that being said, children should know how to manage their use of these devices.
Of course, parents have the responsibility to opt for what they feel is the ‘healthier’ entertainment for their children, and because of that we can’t let a gadget change and warp the critical moments we can have with our kids. Playing games, sharing stories or lessons, all of these are important, especially with how fast children grow. Parents that have been too permissive with their kids don’t realise that their children and themselves are missing these bonding moments, not just because of work problems or time constraints but because there’s something else that works for isolating us from those we care about – smart devices.
Nevertheless, children should still learn to operate these devices, but when is it necessary for them? We, as parents, have to analyse multiple factors. What will they use it for? How old are they? How are they doing in their studies?
Taking all of these into account will help us put guidelines on how often they can use smartphones so that their relationships with others aren’t affected by it.
Children from one to six years of age don’t need a cellphone of their own, they already have other tech devices such as laptops and desktops for that, plus they give parents a better control of what they see. If at any point they need to use a smartphone, then they can borrow their parents’. However, parents should still teach them that if the phone rings at any moment, they have to hand it over and let the parents answer the call without whining or talking back.
A child between seven and nine years old could use a standard cellphone but not necessarily a smartphone, mostly because they should only need the phone to talk with their parents about school situations or to talk with their friends. In case they want to use social media, do homework or looking up something online, then they can make do with whatever computer(s) they have available at home, where they can be managed better. Do note that most social media sites do not allow those under thirteen to start an account so you may want to also monitor this a little closer and do what is comfortable with you and your spouse.
But why give them such a short leash you might ask?
Because children are our responsibility and we must protect them. At that age, there are many situations that they don’t know and are still too innocent to learn about. Otherwise, they run the risk of not enjoying their childhood, one of the most important parts of life and learning. Children should never have their childhood sold short, and they should learn through different facets of life at their own pace, something that they can’t do if they’re left to their own devices with a smartphone.
News about issues around the world and the like are important, but learning about the injustices of the world at such a young age threatens their innocence. It’s not that they won’t eventually learn it because they will, but it’s better that they learn it naturally and can rely on their parents to explain things to them rather than having to make their context for why things are a certain way. These are things that kids very rarely talk to their parents about when they end up learning it on their own, so being able to stay on track and knows what’s going on is essential in teaching and raising them as well. Not to mention that there are so many violent, unjust and societal events around that there will come the point where they’ll start to wonder if it’s okay for them to also act or behave like that.
Another critical situation parents should take into account, in regards to smartphones, is that there are a lot of extracurricular activities that kids can do before they concern themselves with smartphones such as sports, learning other languages, music, painting, or if they like technology itself, even computing or robotics. All of these help in fostering better physical and mental health for children.
Once they turn ten years old, it becomes a whole other subject in which they’ll start developing their own identity and learning to make their own life choices. Parents should still have some control over what they do, but here is where they can get more leeway. All of these restrictions would be in place to make sure that they can make the most out of their youth and that they learn not to isolate themselves from the world, their families and their friends. If you can afford one and the school does not have any rules against it, then you might want to consider getting a smartphone for your tween.
Photo Credits: Odyssey, CIO, Parenting