Unless you want to live under a rock, you cannot escape the invasion of smartphones in our world today. You could see smartphones being used by adults falling in line while waiting for their coffee, by teenagers hanging out in the classroom or in public spaces, by adults walking down the street, and just about anyone in the train or a bus.
Increasingly, bored children are also staring down at a smartphone or tablet screen when they are at a restaurant, or when their parents want to have some peace and quiet in the house or in a public space.
It’s one thing for a child to borrow his or her parent’s phone. It’s an entirely different thing for a child to own a smartphone. What is the right age for a child to get a smartphone?
Here are several facts from Influence Central about smartphones and kids that you might want to know:
- On average, kids get their first smartphones when they are 10.3 years old
- Families text each other even when they are home
- Kids are using tablet computers and smartphones for entertainment when they travel with family
- 50% of kids have social media accounts by age 12, Facebook and Instagram lead the way in kids’ usage
The Bill Gates Approach
Bill Gates, billionaire founder of Microsoft, did not let his kids have a smartphone until they were in High School. For the Gates children, you get a smartphone only when you turn 14, and there are rules inside the house on using your smartphone.
Age is not the only factor that should be considered for the right age for kids to get a smartphone. It might be better to look at the issue of restraint, self-discipline, and the impact of smartphones on young minds.
- The brain of kids is rapidly developing during childhood and adolescence. They are also developing social skills that they will need throughout their life. A smartphone may inhibit their social skills and keep them tethered to a screen.
- Kids may not learn the importance of face-to-face communications if they are always communicating via online messengers.
- Having a smartphone may also lead to health issues such as eye strain, posture problems because of too much sitting while watching, and obesity.
In a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, parents are also concerned about several issues that smartphone ownership brings to kids:
- Addiction: 50% of teenagers surveyed feel addicted to their device.
- Frequency: 78% of teenagers and 69% of parents check smartphones and devices almost every hour; They also feel the itch to respond to messages right away!
- Distraction: 77% of parents feel that their children are not paying attention to them because their devices have stolen their attention.
- Conflict: Smartphones and other devices have also been a source of conflict between parents and their teenagers.
- Risky behavior: 56% of parents do check their devices while they are driving and their teenagers are witnessing them do this risky behavior.
So what’s the right age for a child to get his or her own smartphone?
Later is better! Some experts suggest that 12-14 years old is the best time. But before giving a child a smartphone, we should consider the following:
- A child’s maturity
- Helping them learn the value of face-to-face communication
- Following rules and guidelines on using a smartphone and Social Media sites and apps
Let’s also remember that the internet has many landmines for kids—pornography and other harmful content. They may also be subjected to online bullies and predators. It’s also important to use some parental control software or apps to help monitor their internet usage and give guidance when necessary.