A cell phone or mobile phone is a technological advancement that has become more than a necessity in modern times. It combines the functions of several devices, including an alarm clock, a telephone, a computer, and a television.
Children know that these tiny devices hold the power to provide them with unlimited access to cartoons, video games, and social media apps. They may be tech-savvy, but does that mean they are ready to own this device?
At what age should kids get a phone? In this post, know the perks and drawbacks of these devices and decide if your child is ready for a phone of their own.
What Age Should Children Get A Phone?
There are no governmental guidelines on when a child should get their smartphone as it is an individual family decision. The Pew Research Organization notes that the ideal age could be 12-14 years. Nevertheless, the ultimate decision to provide a phone before this age or beyond lies with the parent and depends on a child’s sense of responsibility, self-control, and obedience levels (1).
If the situation demands and you have to provide your child with a phone before the child is 12, prefer a basic phone with no or restricted internet connectivity or set child locks on inessential applications.
How Should Children Use Cell Phones As Per Their Age?
It is impossible to steer children away from those shimmering cell phone screens in a world surrounded by advanced mobile technology. Nevertheless, you can control the activities on the device, and the time it is used for. The following age guide by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry could help you regulate your child’s phone usage (2).
- Ages two and below: Children of this age shouldn’t be given a phone. You may occasionally use it to connect with other family members and friends via video calls. For children above 18 months of age, you may show them a few educational videos under your supervision.
- Ages two to five: Children of these ages may start to recognize that phones can be used as entertainment platforms. Restrict such entertainment usage of phones for only one hour a day under your supervision.
- Ages six to twelve: During this age, your child may start to understand the various platforms on the internet. By no means must you let your child have access to social media. The child’s critical skills are still developing at this age, and they are incapable of handling the negative effects that may come with it. You may allow your child to access other functions and watch educational videos for two hours a day. However, you must oversee the activities conducted on the phone, have screen-time limits, and exercise strict parental control on each application they use (3).
- Ages twelve and above: Most children around this age would have a developed prefrontal cortex that is responsible for good decision-making skills. Hence, at this age, based on your child’s maturity level, you may advance to a partially supervised usage of a phone with limited internet access. However, social media usage, if any, should be carefully monitored. Despite the connectivity social media brings, it may also make a child vulnerable to cyber-bullying (4) (5).
What Are The Benefits Of Cell Phones For Children?
A child’s life with a phone is not entirely a train wreck. Access to these digital devices may give your child the following benefits (6).
- Safety tool: Most mobile devices these days are equipped with location trackers. This unfettered access to a child’s location is a relief to many parents and is also one reason that prompts a parent to purchase a phone for their child. It also benefits your child as they get to enjoy their freedom without compromising on their safety. They could also contact you in case of emergencies.
- Technological guide: The future is all about technology. Optimal exposure to cell phones would help children keep up with the latest technologies, learn new skills, and find their stepping stone in the current internet-led times.
- Educational aid: The unlimited access to information on the internet also includes the benefits of educational resources. With so many online study platforms, your child could resolve the queries arising during their homework time from an expert. They could also seek assistance on any subject matter within a matter of minutes.
- Social assistance: Social media networks also provide a few benefits as they could be an ideal place for your child to stay connected with friends and family members. It is essential that the child stays in touch with only those they and you know in the real world. You could take the help of parental control apps to ensure your child doesn’t fall prey to cyber-bullying while they develop their friendships and improve their social skills.
- Responsibility token: It is no lie that a phone is an investment, and hence your child must keep it safe. Since they may view the cell phone as a prized possession, you could use it as an opportunity to teach them responsibility. You may also put them on the family plan and use their smartphone privileges to teach them about budgeting and controlling.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Children Having Cell Phones?
As good as the benefits of using a cell phone may seem, they could have their share of cons. Excess usage of cell phones by children may lead to the following effects.
- Alteration of brain development: Excess usage of cell phones may result in premature thinning of the prefrontal cortex. Eventually, this thinning could decrease social and cognitive skills affecting their mental health and leading to anxiety and depression. A few studies also suggest that cell phone radiation could lead to brain tumors (7).
- Reduction of social skills: The more time a child spends on cell phones, the less time they may spend with their friends and family. They may also stop participating in extracurricular activities in schools and spend time on their phones instead, affecting their social and critical thinking skills (8).
- Exploration into the dark web: The other coin of the internet includes the world of the dark web. Any unrestricted recreational screen time could give them access to the dark internet that is filled with explicit content. In addition, exposure to such content may pose a threat to their character development (8).
- Phone addiction: Dopamine is a rewarding hormone that is released after a favorite activity. Smartphones could serve as an easy source of dopamine. This easy supply means that a child may resort to using a phone for instant happiness, ultimately getting addicted to it. The technology addiction may also prevent them from participating in physical activities, pushing them towards a sedentary lifestyle (9) (10).
A smartphone has become a necessity these days, and when used right, it offers indispensable benefits to your child’s future. However, the answer to the question “what age should kids get a phone?” is dependent on the sense of responsibility your child holds towards it and their maturity level. Now that you know both sides of the coin, you are a better judge if this device is a necessity in your child’s life at this age.