For most parents, figuring out whether to let their kids use smartphones can be a challenging task.
With many kids now adept at navigating their parents’ phone games from an early age, the question of getting their own games can quickly become a matter of when and not.
Real, According to a 2021 study, more than two-fifths (42%) of children now own their own phone by the age of 10. By age 12, that number is 71%; at the age of 14, it was 91%.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to give up control as a parent. In fact, by having an early conversation, both you and your child can understand the timelines and expectations for phone ownership as well as any test runs that may be needed first.
“Giving your child their first phone is a big moment for many parents and caregivers, and you can use this as an important opportunity to talk about what the device is meant to be used for. children, when they want to use them and what are their expectations, your family,” said Will Gardner, director at the UK’s Center for a Safer Internet CNBC Make it.
Before deciding whether or not to give your child a smartphone, it’s important to consider whether they’re ready for one.
Usually, that decision won’t depend on your child’s age but on how mature they are. Therefore, it may be worth thinking about some questions or developmental milestones to help guide your response.
- Who is starting the conversation around phone ownership, you or your kids?
- How responsible is your child? Can they be trusted to take care of their belongings and use the phone appropriately?
- How will phones benefit your children, both in terms of their safety and social development?
- How sensitive are your children and how do they respond to criticism?
- How well is your child coping with device time and social media limits?
Megan Moreno, professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, said: “Current evidence does not demonstrate a specific age at which smartphones are encouraged or discouraged. “Using a landmark approach may be a better way to gauge a child’s interest and readiness for phones.”
There are no hard and fast rules for those milestones, and they can be determined independently by you as a parent or through open dialogue with your child. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics “PhoneReady Questionnaire,” launched earlier this year in partnership with telecommunications company AT&T, can help guide the discussion.
If you’ve determined that your child isn’t ready for a smartphone, there are a number of alternatives that can help meet their requirements and give you more peace of mind as a parent.
A simple cell phone, or “dumb phone,” can allow your child to text and make phone calls, while having little or no computing power and an internet connection.
To be a little more subtle, models like the Gabb phone include a camera, GPS, and a curated selection of apps that don’t allow for potentially riskier functions like picture messaging or group texting. .
Meanwhile, smartwatches can provide access to a variety of tools — such as messaging, calls, GPS, and some apps — and have the added benefit of being tied to your child, helping minimize loss or theft.
Also, if you don’t want to give your kids their own devices, you can choose to let them use your phone at certain times or around the house, or you can allow them to connect points. broadcast from a non-internet enabled device according to your instructions.
If you’ve given your child permission to use phones or are considering phone use as the next stage, there are still a few ways you can limit or monitor their use.
Parental control tools like Bark and Qustodio can let you block access to specific websites while also alerting you to issues like bullying, predators, and pornography. .
Meanwhile, monitoring tools, including built-in screen time apps, can help limit the time your child spends on specific apps or functions, limiting trends. Addictive.
The most important thing, however, is to talk to your child about your overall expectations for their phone use and how those might evolve over time.
“Setting rules and expectations is key,” says Moreno, “but revisiting those rules and expectations within a reasonable period of time is probably just as important and often overlooked.”
In the meantime, if you start to notice a change in your child’s behavior or see cause for concern, be ready to start a discussion and show that you are there to support.
“If something goes wrong and you start to see a change in behavior in your child, whether they spend more or less time on devices than usual, get upset after phone time or avoid congregating at school or with friends, you should first find a way to reassure them that you are there to listen and help without judgment,” says Gardner.
“Once you know the details, you can decide how best to proceed – whether that’s seeking extra support from the school or the police.”