When to Introduce Smartphones to Your Kids
Recently, there was a video circulating on Social Media that showed a baby attempting to read a book like it was a Smartphone. His chubby little fingers were desperately trying to swipe and click on the pictures. Not once did he try to hold the book or turn the page. The short clip provided a great laugh, but it also sheds insight on how our children are being influenced by technology.
In this day and age it feels like children are digital natives, arriving in this world already preprogrammed for technology. They naturally navigate the world of tablets and Smartphones with ease, while many adults struggle to understand how to program the DVR.
It should come as no surprise that Smartphones and tablets have now replaced basketballs and baby dolls on a child’s wish list. Elementary school aged children start asking, let’s say begging, for these forms of technology before they can even tie their shoes.
In a recent publication, it was noted that 56% of children who are between the ages 10 to 13 own a Smartphone. While that fact alone may come as a shock, it is estimated that 25% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 have a Smartphone.
This places the parent in a precarious situation as they question, “When should I introduce a Smartphone to my child?”
Baby Steps: Introducing Children To Smartphones
Just because all your son’s friends have a Smartphone or they “have” to play a certain free game app, it doesn’t mean he is necessarily ready for Smartphone ownership. That is why it is vital for parents to slowly scaffold access to Smartphones until he is ready to handle full fledged ownership. Parents need to consider a child’s maturity, responsibility, and social skills. Many experts agree that babies and young toddlers should refrain from a lot of screen time. Televisions and computers come to mind, but it should also include Smartphones.
“Children under two years of age learn best from real-world experiences and interactions, and each minute spent in front of a screen-based device is a minute when your child is not exploring the world and using their senses, which is extremely important in their development process,” says Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a designer for Leapfrog Enterprises.
However, as your son ages, technology can offer a wonderful array of educational games and opportunities to extend knowledge beyond a classroom. Children are able to research, view, and explore topics that used to be only found in the dusty encyclopedias stored at the library.
“In a supervised environment, children as young as four or five are able to engage in learning activities using smartphones and tablets of all kinds,” said Jeannie Galindo, a supervisor of instructional technology in Florida. “In an unsupervised environment, I wouldn’t recommend a smartphone or tablet purchase for a child until at least between the ages of 11 and 13.”
Transitioning A Child To Smartphone Ownership
Guiding your son or daughter to Smartphone ownership through steps can pay off in the end by providing opportunities to gain experience and responsibility. Listed below are a few suggestions to help ease this process for parents and children:
- First, allow your child to take over chores or responsibilities. Have your son prove he can handle chores, taking care of pets, or setting his own alarm clock.
- Next, give him access to social media accounts and monitor his online activity. It sounds scary, but imagine what might happen if you hand over unlimited access 24 hours a day on a Smartphone with no supervision. This will allow you to judge his maturity by viewing his posts.
- If all goes well, allow them access to a “dumb” cellphone. Items get lost or broken- allow him to learn these lessons with a cheap version.
- Model positive Smartphone behaviors, especially when little eyes are watching.
- Finally, purchase a Smartphone only when there is a real need. Some valid reasons to consider purchasing a Smartphone are if a child works, has late practices, or has started driving.
- Write a Smartphone contract between you and your child. It is important to set rules about your child’s Smartphone use and how much data can be used daily.
Ringing In A New Stage Of Childhood
Following the steps listed above will help condition children and allow them to slowly acquire the responsibility needed for owning a Smartphone. It is the parent’s role to supply guidance to prepare children for handling real challenges encountered with Smartphone ownership.
A parent might miss the simple days of playing catch and dressing dolls, but technology can be a blessing in disguise. Introducing your child to a Smartphone can encourage communication and bonding with parents on a deeper level.
Guest Post Submitted by Amy Williams: