“Children don’t need more things. The best toy a child can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.”
The psychiatrist Bruce Perry may not have had smartphones on his mind when he said this. These days the children are yearning and demanding for smartphones due to curiosity, trends and peer pressure.
It results in an indecisive conflict for the parents whether to save their children from getting spoiled by not giving them smartphones or giving it to them as it is a necessary mode of communication, learning, information, and growth in today’s competitive times.
It is hard for the concerned parents to imagine their kids being glued to the screen, resulting in a loss in attention and losing interest in reading books or engaging in meaningful conversations. So, let us see what the upsides and downsides of it are:
- It is one of the basic tools for kids in this technological era to keep up with the changing times
- An easy way to get information about anything, anytime and anywhere.
- The most general device to be in touch with family, relatives, and friends.
- It helps a lot with homework as well as in scholastic areas.
This is all true, but we must also keep in mind all the cons it has!
- Smartphones tend to be expensive, so, should we give an expensive product to a kid who can easily damage or misplace it?
- If a kid does not know the value of money and the limits of spending, a smartphone gift to him can prove considerably heavy on your wallet.
- The Internet, otherwise full of information and useful data, also carries adult and explicit contents which are harmful to young minds.
- Being most common disadvantage of social media, things such as cyber-bullying can be discouraging for your child.
- Kids tend to be more engaged with their phones than spending time with family, friends and engaging in physical activities. So keeping them away from smartphones would be like keeping rats away from the cheese.
How Can You and I Address These Issues?
There are several things you need to observe before you can conclude anything:
- Does he or she have a tendency to lose things?
- Will they take extra care if they are told that the thing is important or expensive?
- It is important to know that how your child handles money. Is he smart with it or spends it regardless of what is left?
- Are the concepts of your child about the use of the device clear? It is important to make him understand that whatever he posts on social sites today is going to be there forever and his future friends, colleagues, and employers, etc. could see it and judge him by that.
- How well will your child cope with the screen time limits with the smartphone in his hand?
Now, What Should We Do if a Child Fails in These Criteria?
There are few steps that you can take till he or she is old enough for smartphones:
- You can gift him a simple phone with basic functions such as calling, texting, etc. so that he can still be connected to you and others without exposing himself to the ‘smart’ world.
- Smartphone or not, you must establish that you know the password of the device with his knowledge and also have a right to take it away if deemed necessary.
- Keep a check on the websites he visits. You must know what kind of content he comes across on the internet.
- You must set a limit on the time that your child spends looking at screens, especially for those who are prone to addiction
- Spending on the data plan and online purchases have strictly to be within limits set by you
- Establish specific times of the day when the use of devices is strictly forbidden such as to dinner table or at bedtime.
- Specify the consequences of the device being damaged or misplaced.
- Phones or devices should not be used during important and emotional conversations.
- Spend some personal time. This is a necessary tool in bonding with your child. The stronger the bond gets, the more he will listen and be open to you.
So, What is the Right Age?
World’s richest man Bill Gates had an age bar for 14 years to get smartphones.
But rather than age, it is more about your child’s maturity, understanding of technology and social awareness. A child of 16 may be addictive and reckless with its use while a 12-year-old can handle it more smartly for his informational growth.
Even more important is how well you and your child understand each other.