As a parent, how do you decide when to buy your kids smartphones? Intelligent technology is both a powerful and addictive force, with the capacity to impact children in a variety of ways. Yes – there are educational benefits to smart technology. But kids are impressionable. They’re still forming their understanding of the world and human nature. So the potential for damage makes smartphones a risky investment.
So at what age are kids ready to start using their own phone? The question is up for debate. Some parents buy their children smartphones at an early age for safety reasons. But with so many features, the intended use – making phone calls – is often diluted by hours of game playing and media watching instead. Other parents hold off for as long as possible before purchasing smartphones for their kids.
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Do Smartphones Effect Your Child’s Mental Health?
One such parent is Brooke Shannon, a mother whose children started asking for a smartphone in the first grade. She didn’t want to cave into the peer pressure of other parents and kids. So she created an online pledge that encourages parents to delay getting their kids a smartphone until the 8th grade. More than 4,000 families have signed the pledge thus far.
“Let kids be kids a little longer,” reads the website’s slogan. And that is one of the many issues with children using smart technology at young ages. Their brains are still extremely impressionable, and exposure to information – especially social media – can have disastrous effects on their mental health. And even when they’re in eighth grade, smartphones still increase the risk for mental health issues. Research shows that an 8th grader who frequently uses social media is at a 72% higher risk for depression.
Brooke Shannon and the 4,000 names on the “Wait Until 8th Pledge” aren’t the only ones discouraging smartphone use for children at an early age. Tech pioneer Bill Gates wouldn’t buy his kids smartphones until they were 14 years old. When someone whose made billions by innovating intelligent technology creates strict regulations on what they child can use, that says a lot about the potential damage smartphones can do to a child’s brain.
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Use Discretion Based on Maturity, Not Age
So how do you decide when your kid is ready to safely use a smartphone? According to CommonSenseMedia, parents should use discretion based on maturity and not age.
Of course, gauging the maturity level of your kid can be tricky. Consider the level of responsibility they demonstrate in daily life. Do they keep you informed of their whereabouts and keep their word about when they’ll return home? Do they lose other possessions easily?
And if you do decide to get your kid a smartphone, define your intention. Is it for safety reasons or social reasons? Based on the reasons why you think your child needs one, set strict guidelines that will monitor their experience.
Data source: commonsensemedia.org, waituntil8th.org, npr.org