The global rise of the smartphone has been momentous, to say the least. According to Statista, the global number of smartphone users currently stands at about 2.5 billion. Considering the global population is just over 7.6 billion people, that is a significant number. It would seem that the amount of children who use smartphones is also on the rise all over the world.
If you have a child in primary school, you’ve probably had the smartphone debate with them numerous times. Many parents budge and allow their children to have their own phone, while just as many others flatly refuse. Whichever side of the debate you find yourself on, you probably have valid reasons for your decision.
It’s fair to ask, then: should a child have a smartphone, and how young is too young?
Giving your child their own smartphone comes with a number of benefits for both parent and child.
• Parents can always reach their children, and vice versa (especially in emergency situations).
• Smartphones give parents the ability to track their children’s whereabouts in real time.
• Owning a smartphone gives children a sense of responsibility.
• Smartphones give shy children the opportunity to develop communication skills that they might not be able to learn in traditional social environments.
• Owning a smartphone means that children keep up with technology as it develops.
• Children can use smartphones to do their own research on school subjects or topics that they find interesting.
Of course, there will always be some disadvantages when you allow your children to have their own mobile phone.
• There is an increased risk of cyberbullying.
• Children can communicate with strangers without their parents’ knowledge or supervision.
• There is an added monthly cost.
• Access to the internet means access to age-inappropriate content and apps.
• Constant access to smartphones may have an influence on school performance and development.
• A mobile phone can be a potential health hazard, which could cause sleep disruption, restlessness and digital eye strain.
When stuck between a rock and a hard place, what is a parent to do? Experts recommend that parents assess the need for a smartphone for their child before just agreeing due to peer pressure that a child might experience. Ask yourself, has your child developed a sense of responsibility that warrants the ownership of an expensive device?
Should you decide to allow your child to have a smartphone, it is important that it comes with some ground rules. Some of these could be:
• Parents will have access to passwords and to the content on a child’s phone at all times.
• Mobile phone usage should be restricted to certain times, which doesn’t include dinnertime or after bedtime.
• Filtering software will restrict access to inappropriate websites. Various apps are available in this regard – we recommend Nischint, Family Premier and PhoneSherrif.
Ultimately, it is important to have a frank conversation with your child about the dangers that smartphones could potentially hold for children. Having an open-door policy that gives your child the peace of mind to discuss anything that might be of concern with you is immensely important.
Deciding which age is the right age to allow your child to have a smartphone is one that should be made based on your individual family situation, and which should not be influenced by how other parents decide to approach this conundrum.
Consider having them sign Smartcom’s contract for teenagers as a formal agreement that helps them to understand the implications of this new and very big responsibility.