Parents nowadays face a whole new set of considerations that their own parents never dreamed of giving brain time. As technological advances continue to gain momentum, two schools of thought have emerged – parents who actively embrace all things technological and allow their children own all manner of devices and those who steadfastly resist. We know they will all own one eventually, but let us explore few reasons for and against young children having their own smartphones.
A mobile phone is invaluable in the event of an emergency. If your child is in trouble and needs to reach you quickly, then you will be happy that you gave her that phone for Christmas. This is one of the biggest advantages.
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Looking After possessions
A smartphone can be a costly investment. Many young children contribute to the cost of their phone by saving up their pocket money over several months. This is a very good way to teach children responsibility and that nothing comes for free. Parents can also use this to teach children that they must look after their possessions.
Smartphones allow access to the internet, the information super highway! For a curious child, this is an absolute treasure trove of possibilities – research assignments, look for recipes, find song lyrics, learn a language, connect with friends, there is almost nothing that you cannot find on the internet! Parents can also download educational apps to keep their children occupied on long journeys.
Mobile phone devices are now equipped with GPS apps that allow you to track the movement and location of your child. This is invaluable when they are on the move with other people. For older children especially, they are a great way to make sure they are exactly where they said they would be!
In as much as access to the internet is a plus for parents, an even bigger consideration are the hidden dangers. Without adequate parental guidance and control, many children explore cyberspace without boundaries and end up getting themselves into trouble with cyber bullies, confidence tricksters, paedophiles, or worse.
All Day, Every day
Addiction to mobile phones is a 21st century phenomenon, the more we use them, the more we come to rely on them. A child may get sucked into her phone to the detriment of everything else, including her academics and mental health.
Mobile phones can indeed open a Pandora’s Box of horrors, including sexting. This involves children as young as eight sending explicit material to others via mobile phones which sometimes end up on the internet. The emotional distress of these images being made public has caused an alarming number of young children to commit suicide! Parents must be diligent when it comes to checking their children’s phones and making sure that they know the implications of their actions.
As some mobile companies sell phone numbers to third parties, anyone that has your child’s phone number can call them and ask them to do all manner of things without your knowledge. It is of huge importance to make your children aware of these dangers and to report any such call to you as soon as it happens. Remember, confidence tricksters are highly skilled at gaining the trust of children, both young and old, leading them astray!
We got a few parents to share their thoughts and experience with us. Find below.
Mrs. Oshiga, mum to Toluwase, Tanitoluwa and Temiloluwa
My personal circumstances meant that I had to give my son a phone at the age of six as my husband and I both work full time and had to leave the boys with nannies. It gives me peace of mind to know that my child can reach me whenever he needs something. We also find that because the nannies know that the children can reach us whenever they want, they behave better.
So far, we have not found any disadvantages because it is not a smartphone. The phone can only make and receive calls and send text messages. The children know that it is only to be used when they need to reach myself and my husband. For us, this arrangement has worked very well.
Mrs. Aluko, mum to Gideon (13), Olamide (10), Nathaniel (5)
I think 14 is the best age to hand over a smartphone. In this day and age, that may seem quite late! But it actually isn’t.
We experimented with our eldest son a few years ago – we gave him a mobile device and found that it became a real distraction for him. I then decided to read up on mobile phones and found that when children are exposed too early to the radiation, their brains do not get a chance to develop in the normal way. We subsequently decided to withdraw it as he really did not need it.
In case of an emergency, there is always a responsible adult around them. We have put systems in place so that if they need to speak to us, all they need to do is tell the adult and I can speak to them on that person’s phone.
It doesn’t matter that most of his peers at school have one. As far as we are concerned, it is a way for him to learn to deal with peer pressure. After all, it isn’t as though he does not have other electronic devices, he does, it is just that we do not feel that he needs to expose himself to the potential harms of mobile phones just yet.
Mr. Holmes, dad to ‘Lolade (12), Reya (9)
I think when to give your child any type of phone depends on the child and family circumstances. Our eldest daughter got a phone at the age of 10 – one of those Hello Kitty ones. We decided that she was old enough to take on the responsibility of owning her own phone. She contributed some of her own money towards its purchase which immediately made her feel more responsible for its care.
The phone had basic technology, but after a year of looking after that phone, she got a mini smartphone at the age of eleven. She uses her phone to keep in touch with her friends and listen to music but mainly to find out recipes to fuel her cooking obsession! She also uses her phone to practice her spanish wherever she goes, using the duolingo app.
Personally, we have not found a phone to be a distraction. I think that happens when parents do not instill boundaries from the very beginning. We are fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of time with our kids, so can police the rules that we have put in place regarding phones. We find that it is a really good way of introducing them to technology and responsibility. Yes, the internet can be a dangerous place, but a total black out of its use is not the way to keep children safe. As parents, we must educate them about those dangers head on! For us, the mobile phone has been a positive tool!
What has been your own experience? Do share with us below.