Do you remember the day you confidently walked straight into that toy store to get a “make believe” phone in the hopes that your toddler will keep his or her hands off your TV remote? Somehow you blinked, and your little one is now asking for their own smartphone! Then comes the dreaded question: should I give my child a phone?
Well, there’s no right or wrong answer. While the latest research suggests that it’s safe for kids to carry their cell phone by the age of 10 and use social media by 13, Bill Gates said in an interview back in 2017 that he didn’t let any of his children get their phone until they were 14 years old. But times are changing very fast, and no one knows your family dynamics more than you do. Therefore, as mothers, we don’t rely on age alone. It all depends on the child’s maturity level, ability to follow the rules, both at home or school, their sense of responsibility, and our own family’s needs. This matter is very personal, a lot of kids are asking for their phones and are getting them, towards the last years of elementary.
So, the first thing to do is:
Ask your child, why do they need it? Do they need it to socialize with friends? Reach a parent? Download a social media app?
And the second is:
With all those questions in mind, you might want to observe your children for the following signs to assess their maturity level to know if:
– They will use text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not embarrass or harass others,
– They are responsible enough to own a phone. You need to make sure they won’t use it in class, at the dinner table or disrupt conversations.
– They value their belongings. Are they constantly losing things such as their jackets, water bottles, gadgets well they might lose an expensive phone too
– They are willing to share about themselves with others and to what extent. Are they private or tend to get easily manipulated into sharing personal information?
And now, you are ready to weigh the pros and cons and what works best with your family in terms of:
Are they mature enough to be trusted with such a responsibility? Sure, we can explain to our children the risks of social media a million times, but are they quickly taken by peer pressure? or, do they use their own judgment? Do you have an open relationship with them? Do they come to you for advice? Can you rely on them to answer when you call?
Remember, that you are giving them assertive communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that could be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. They can easily create and upload videos on social apps such as TikTok through which anyone can view, save and spread them widely.
If you are working parents, or if your job or living arrangements require frequent traveling, you would want your child to reach you on their own, at any point even under the supervision or a caregiver. It’s reassuring for both parents and child to know they can be reachable at any point in time. You experience the same concern if your child attends after school playdates or activities.
If you get your child a phone, avoid daily drops and breaks by getting the right accessories.
Knowing the basic guidelines:
If you do decide to take the plunge and give your child a fully functioning phone, make sure you set clear guidelines and expectations, for example:
– Let your child know that you can take back the phone any time for improper use.
– Agree on a limited time of use and amount of money spent on data, games and apps expenses.
– Let your child know that you have the right to their password, and they should write or post as if you are reading and monitoring their content daily
– Specify the times of day when using the phone is not allowed, such as late at night, during family activities or school work
We are all training our children to make the right decisions, so whether you give in today or later, it all starts by setting clear rules and following up with the proper, age related consequences