Once upon a time, the question at hand when it came to children and age was when they should be allowed out on their own with no parental supervision. These days the question that most parents have to consider first – and one that is much harder to answer – is what age their child should be allowed to have their own mobile phone.
There are many pros and cons to the argument, many reasons why a child might want a phone, and many just as good reasons why parents may not want them anywhere near one. We’ll explore these pros and cons, and you can make up your own mind about when your child is ready for their very first phone.
Something that is always an aspect of any child’s life is peer pressure. Sometimes this can be nasty, a bullying kind of problem that causes much upset and even anxiety and depression. Sometimes it can be as simple as a friend saying that they’re getting, or have just been given, their own smartphone, and your child wanting to be the same as their pal. Of course, having something just because someone else has it isn’t a good reason to be given that item at all, but it does give you as a parent pause to think. If the friend has a phone, perhaps it is time for your child to have one?
The thing is, it’s not just about age. Yes, the friend might be the same age as your boy or girl, but they might also be more responsible. Their parents might work late, or the child might take a bus or train to school, and therefore a phone is useful to be able to stay in contact. You might always be there for school pick up and drop off, and your child might not go anywhere without you – is a phone as necessary in that case? If it is, make sure you speak to your child about which phone would suit them best, and you can even enjoy picking out cases and accessories together.
Smartphones are amazing things, and it’s likely that you wouldn’t be without yours. Allowing your child to have their own, however, is an entirely different matter. You know what you’ve come across in terms of ‘trolls’ and online bullies, and you are probably worried about letting your child be subjected to the same thing. It’s a parent’s instinct to protect their child, and if that means not allowing them a mobile for a while yet because they are not emotionally mature enough to handle it, then so be it.
However, the question comes about how a child will ever learn how to deal with these issues if they are never allowed to confront them. It’s entirely understandable that a parent would want to shield their children from the real world for as long as possible, but doing that might mean that they end up unable to manage on their own as a well-rounded adult. Therefore, although it’s hard, allowing them to have a smartphone could be a way to show them what’s what. The key is to ensure that you also have access to their phones and social media accounts and that your child feels they can discuss any problems they encounter with you.
The great thing about having a smartphone is that it offers unparalleled access to the world. With a phone, your child will be able to discover new things, learn about different cultures, make friends and even get their homework done in a fun, interactive way. For some parents, this particular positive far outweighs the potential negatives.
This idea has become particularly important over the last year or so when so many children necessarily had to do most or all of their schooling at home. For some, if they had not had access to a mobile phone, that work would not have been able to be completed, and they would have missed out on a considerable amount of their education. This in itself could be an excellent reason to opt for a phone for your child; we never know what’s around the corner, and should a similar issue occur again, with the right tools and tech in place, it wouldn’t be so detrimental to your child’s education.
Parents Do It
Trying to explain to your child why you have a smartphone – and why you use it as frequently as you probably do – yet they aren’t allowed one is a problematic issue. With children, the ironic saying, “do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t really hold water. They want to emulate their parents and can’t see a problem with doing that. If you genuinely don’t want your young kids to have a mobile phone just yet, why not put yours away too? Make it clear that they aren’t needed at all times and that when they are required, it is for emergencies only. This might persuade a child that it’s not the be-all and end-all anyway.
Alternatively, the fact that you use your phone frequently might help you make a different decision; it could show you just how much use your child would get from it and why it’s important they have one because they have reached the right age. Perhaps you can even learn about how to use your phones in the best way together, taking the time to understand all the intricacies such as how to delete duplicate photos on iPhone and what the best chargers are, and so on.
A mobile phone is an incredible asset when it comes to the safety of your child. In the past, parents had to let their children out on their own (eventually) without any means of contacting them should they need to. Now, with a phone in their pocket and plenty of credit topped up – or a good contract organised – you can rest more easily knowing where they are at all times.
Therefore, having a mobile phone can mean that children are able to learn how to behave and take care of themselves in the right way, ensuring they have enough freedom and potentially staving off any rebellious behaviour.