When I was growing up, the question that plagued most parents was ‘What is the right age to teach my child how to drive and hand over the car keys?’. Ummm, I think while this still has relevance, the one question that is far trickier is – what is the right age for kids to get their own cell phone?
According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 95 per cent of children in India live in homes with a mobile phone and 73 per cent of Indian children are mobile phone users.
I have 2 teenagers in the house and let me tell you it was a huge dilemma for my husband and me when my daughter started asking me for a phone. I finally succumbed to the pressure when she turned 13 years old. She was one of the last few kids in her entire batch to not have a phone before that.
Was she upset with us that we didn’t give it to her earlier? Maybe. But my husband and I were quite clear that there was too much device exposure in any case and we wanted her to stay away from all the madness as long as possible. We knew that once the phone and social access were given there was no turning back.
When my son turned 13 last week, we gave him his first phone. It was difficult not to give it to him earlier. All his friends got devices during the pandemic. But we had given it to his sister at 13 years and that’s what we were sticking to. I don’t know if we were right or wrong, but I just feel it helped preserve their childhood a little longer.
There is no one magical age when all tweens or teens are ready for a smartphone. Each child develops at a different pace and comes with their own personality and struggles. And every parent should decide upon this age based on what’s appropriate for their own families.
Effects Of Mobiles On Kids
My biggest fear was that their already wavering attention span would get further reduced. And that is definitely true. I cannot blame the kids solely. They have seen us constantly surf the phone and the mobile is an extension of most of us. Kids ape what they see around them.
- Some of the ill effects include
- Extended screen time can physically alter the brain
- Impairs social skills development
- Technology addiction at an early age
- Feel an expensive phone is a status symbol
What Happens When You Give Young Kids Phones
When young kids play on the phone, the dopamine levels in their brain increases. This affects the frontal cortex of a child’s brain pretty much the same way cocaine does. Yes, you read that right. Doctors have compared screen time addiction to cocaine addiction.
This portion of the brain controls memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and impulse control, which is why any addiction leads to a loss of these skills. Children are not born with these skills, but develop them as they grow older which is why they are more susceptible to digital addiction.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states, there is no “right” age for children to start using technology. What is important, they point out, is that parents determine what makes sense to their children based on the family’s needs.
All we can do: is keep the pace reasonable and developmentally appropriate and allow our kids to use technologies that make sense without granting them access to technologies that don’t make sense for their age.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Give Them A Phone
- Are they using public transportation, walking or biking long distances?
- Are they just starting to want to make independent plans with their friends?
- Do you want to be in touch to coordinate pickups or just for your own peace of mind?
If these situations apply to your children, this could be a good reason to give them a phone.
How You Can Monitor Their Phone Addiction
- Maintaining smartphone usage schedule
- Not using smartphones to distract or reward children
- Prioritizing things such as homework, studies, outdoor activities, etc.
- Involving children in walking, exercising, and stretching
- Finding other ways to bond with children, such as cooking, cleaning, or gardening
- Encouraging face-to-face communication
- Being a good role model
As a fellow parent, depending on your child’s age, I would recommend putting parental control apps on their phone so you can ensure they are safe. Here is a list of parental control apps that you should check out.
If you think your kid is ready to handle a smartphone, it’s important that they understand you are still in charge. Parents need to know their child’s passwords, establish clear rules, and put down some consequences if the rules aren’t followed. They need to understand where you are at and having everyone on the same page will make giving your child a phone much easier.
My kids are 16 and 13 years old and I have access to their devices and their passwords. I have told them that I may check their emails/phones when I feel like it. I m their mom and I have a right to make sure that my kids are safe and on the right track. Another rule is that they are required to share their location so that I can easily find them when I need to.
What is the right age to give a child a phone as per you? Tell us in the comments below.