Your child may be able to use your smartphone before he or she can walk, but that doesn’t mean that he or she should have their own!
A recent survey conducted by Influence Central in 2016 found that parents in the USA tend to give their child a smartphone or connected mobile device at the age of 10; compared to the average age being 12 in 2012. In the 2016 survey, it was also reported that half of the children in the families surveyed had Instagram or Facebook accounts by the age of 12.
A similar study was also conducted by Bridgewater State University found that 12% of 20,000 eight-year-old children in the USA had smartphones of their own.
Parenting experts in South Africa say that the trend is similar to the USA, particularly in middle- to upper-class households.
Often the reason for parents giving their children smartphones is for safety and security reasons; although many also give their children a smartphone or mobile device to stop them from nagging for one. So what should caring parents do?
Young children can be given a very basic device which allows them to receive and make calls and send and receive text messages. That way, your child can use the phone for security and safety reasons but isn’t at risk of coming across inappropriate content online. It also removes the risk of giving the child an expensive piece of technology that they could lose or damage.
Children 12 and older
Once a child turns 12, they are more responsible and critical to learn how to use a smartphone safely. Before giving your child a smartphone or device, be sure to check the following boxes:
- Enforce strict rules from the get-go
- Restrict airtime and data usage
- Monitor all activity and usage – you can use special software and apps to help you do this
- Make sure that you have access to the device
- The device should be used in common areas of the home, and taken away at bedtime
- Educate your child about social and smartphone safety
Hard as it may be not to give in to nagging, the later your child is given a smartphone, the better.