Getting a phone for your child is not a question of the “right” age or about the device itself, explained Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect, as quoted by Jill Anderson of Usable Knowledge, a platform of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The real question here is whether your little one is ready to fully access the adult world and whether you have helped them prepare to use the device healthily and responsibly.
Kerry Gallagher, a digital learning specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, and director of K-12 education at ConnectSafely.org, said, “You know your child is ready for a device when you’ve talked about responsible use and modeled the behavior on your own device.”
Statistics On US Teens Who Use Smartphones (2018)
Katherine Schaeffer of Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank, found that 95% of US teens said they have access to a smartphone while 45% said they were “almost constantly” on the internet. 54% of teens and 36% said they spend too much on their phones, quoted Jingjing Jiang of Pew Research Center.
44% of teens said they often check their phone for messages as soon as they wake up (versus 28% who do so sometimes). 18% of teens (versus 40%) often felt as if they have to reply to messages from other people immediately. 8% (versus 23%) often lose focus in class because they are checking their phone.
42% of teens felt anxious, 25% of teens felt lonely, 24% felt upset when asked about the emotions they might feel when they do not have their phones. Only 17% of teens felt relieved and happy felt happy without their phones. 28% said none of the aforementioned words described their feelings when they are without their phones.
49% of teen girls felt more anxious than boys (35%) when they do not have their phone with them. 32% of teen girls felt lonely compared to 20% of boys. Girls were also more upset (28%) when they are without their phones than boys (20%). 18% of girls and 16% of boys felt relieved and happy without their phones. However, more boys (33% versus 23% of girls) felt none of these emotions when they are without their phones.
When asked what parents felt about their teen’s screen time, 65% said they were worried about their teen spending too much screen time. 57% said they imposed limits and how often their teen can go online or use their phone. 86% said they were very or somewhat confident about how much screen time is appropriate for their teen.
More Kids Own Mobile Phones By Seven-Years-Old (2020)
In a survey of 2,167 UK five- to 16-year-olds, research agency Childwise found that kids spent about three hours and 20 minutes daily messaging, playing games, and being online, reported PA Media, via British news source The Guardian. The report also found that 53% of children owned phones by around seven years old. By age 11, 90% of kids already had their own device and owning phones was “almost universal” as soon as children were in secondary school.
Of the participants, 39% said they could not live without their phone. 57% said they always slept with their phone by their bed. Likewise, the same proportion said they did not know what they would do if they lost their phone. 44% admitted they would feel uncomfortable if they were somewhere without reception while 42% said they were “constantly worried” about running out of charge.
Getting Your Child Their First Phone? Consider These 4 Ideas
1. Start Young
It is recommended to introduce responsible device use when your child is young. Consider this as an opportunity to educate your child about proper etiquette and to test out rules. Gallagher argued, “Devices require another literacy that we need to prepare them for and teach. You can’t just give them a phone at 12 with no skill- or literacy-building beforehand.” You can also ask your child what they like most about technology. Is it playing games or watching a video? Are their teachers using technology to show videos?
Chances are, your child’s desire to own a phone might mean that they are interested in doing a similar activity. Be sure to talk about the risks of technology. Educating your child about technology and device use helps build awareness and regulate their device use.
2. Teach Etiquette
Teach your child to refrain from texting a friend if they are angry or in a fight with one another, recommended Jennifer O’Donnell of Verywell Family, a website dedicated to publishing parenting resources.
Your child should also know that text messages can sometimes be misunderstood due to a lack of context. This means they can’t see their recipient’s facial expressions or hear their tone of voice. Encourage them to think before sending a message, a joke, or a sarcastic comment as it may cause hard feelings.
3. Establish Rules Together
Steiner-Adair said, “Have that conversation about the rules and how they might change throughout the years.” Work out on who will be held accountable, who will know the passwords, who will pay for the phone, and more. Cater the rules to each child since some are not drawn to it or only interested in parts of it.
As you decide to grant your children their own phones, monitor how each one interacts with devices. Does one of them have meltdowns when it’s lights off? Does one child struggle socially after using a device. Bear in mind that what might be effective for your older child might not be effective for your younger child.
4. Instill A Sense of Responsibility
Today’s phones offer almost complete internet access and a plethora of apps available that are more difficult to filter and control than a PC, said Vincent Iannelli, MD of Verywell Family. Teach your child to be responsible for their device. For example, you can give them tips on how to avoid losing their device or to care for their own phone, and to stay within their phone plan’s voice, data, and texting minutes.
Are phones a need or a want? Perhaps it’s both since they are used when kids need to research something for school or interact with their friends. But it also comes with risks such as cyberbullying and sexting. Hence, it is important to help your child use their phone safely and responsibly. Phones offer convenience but your little one’s safety should never be jeopardized.