When mobile phones first came out, my immediate response would have been that no child needs to have a cell phone before their teen years. However, we live in a changing world – a world filled with dangers and uncertainty.
Research has disclosed that 25% of kids 2 years old and younger have their own smartphones. That seems a bit young to me. Unfortunately, many parents are driven to get a mobile phone for their child to help them keep up with their peers.
When you consider whether your child is too young to own a mobile phone, think about the following:
1. What is your child’s temperament and personality?
2. Do they have an underlying condition that makes having a cell phone a safety consideration?
3. Does your child have a record of accomplishment of making good choices?
4. What is your child’s age and level of maturity?
5. If your child is older, what kinds of friends do they have?
A UK study found that 97% of parents thought it was all right teenagers below the age of 16 to own a mobile phone. What makes this interesting is the fact that more than 80% of parents linked headaches to mobile phone use, 50% to sleep deprivation, and 48% to behavioral problems. These statistics should give parents pause if they are considering a mobile phone for their child.
Many parents say they use a mobile phone as a learning tool for their kids. Phones may be given to kids as a way of learning, but they end up being used as a distraction, much like sitting a child in front of the TV for a long period.
Experts worry that children are utilizing this type of technology way too young. Smartphone use at a young age can impede early development in areas that can affect the child for the rest of their lives. Children can face problems with developing basic social, verbal, and learning skills at a time when their brains are developing. Early childhood is the time for developing vocabulary, which means speaking and listening. If your child is engaged with a cellphone, they are not developing these important skills. Additionally, your child is not engaging in imaginative play, which builds creativity.
Whenever you decide to get your child a phone, make sure you set some rules for its use. Also, set parameters for using the internet that, if violated, means loss of their phone. Stay aware of your child’s mobile phone use and watch for Facebook cyber bullying, a problem for some young people. Advise your children not to accept friend requests from strangers or answer calls from numbers they do not recognize. Additionally, you can set up a phone so that your child has a certain download limit and if they go over it, you will get a text message informing you.
Reasons for giving your child a cell phone:
1. A mobile phone can allow your child to communicate with you should anything go wrong on his way to and from his school.
2. A mobile phone will enable your child to contact you anytime they need guidance or your assistance.
3. A mobile phone can reduce the stress of parenting.
Ultimately, the decision about when to get your child a mobile phone is up to you as their parent. You know your own child, their level of responsibility, and their needs. Remember that cell phones do not all have the same options and you should choose an age-appropriate mobile phone.