If your kids are angling for a smartphone of their own, know that you’re not alone. Sixty-four percent of adults believe that between 10-14 is the right age for a child to get their first cell phone, according to a study by American Express, while 10 percent think that under 10 is A-OK. It’s a major milestone that there isn’t much of a precedent for (after all, how old were you when you got your first phone? Probably not in the single digits!), and it’s important to wait until you feel completely comfortable with the decision and confident in your child’s maturity level. If your gut’s telling you that they’re too young, you should probably trust your instinct. Here’s why:
1 Doctor’s Orders
Kids today spend an average of seven hours daily on entertainment media, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s our job as parents to manage, monitor, and hopefully limit that time as best we see fit. By arming your elementary school-aged child with a smartphone of their own, you’re relinquishing some of that control and leaving their actions to chance.
2 Privacy Settings Are Not Foolproof
The thing about the Internet is, you’re never fully anonymous. Even if you’ve enabled the strictest privacy settings on your kids’ social media accounts, there’s still the possibility that their location is out there. A selfie with a street sign in the background could give away their whereabouts, and a photo with friends could disclose the name of their middle school. It’s a scary world out there, and we want to protect them to the best of our ability.
3 Their Social Lives Are Being Redefined
Sure, technology connects us with one another — if it weren’t for Facebook, you’d have no idea what most of your high-school class was up to, right? But it can almost make communication too easy. Is Snapchatting with a friend going to became a replacement for an actual in-person playdate? And how are kids who text exclusively going to feel comfortable on an eventual phone interview? Sometimes there’s no replacement for face-to-face contact. And your kids need to know that.
4 The Apps That Are Available to Them? Seriously Scary.
While your favorite apps folder probably includes things like mobile banking and the weather, what’s most popular among teens is utterly terrifying.
5 Bullies Love to Hide Behind a Screen
Kids are exposed to plenty of meanness at school and on the playground. But give them a screen to hide behind, and watch the claws really come out. Cyberbullying is scary and something that 15 percent of high-school students report experiencing, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Postpone the potential for such mean girl/boy behavior for as long as possible.
6 Addiction Starts Early
The same toddler who couldn’t be separated from his Thomas the Tank Engine app is pretty much guaranteed to turn into a YouTube addict and later a texting machine. Screen time is an inevitable part of their lives, but the more control parents have over it, the better.
7 Kids Don’t Fully Understand the Consequences of Their Actions
Sexting, bullying, and the like are all bad decisions that aren’t so easy to erase once they’ve been made (remember Anthony Weiner?). If it’s tough for so many adults to remember that message, imagine what it’s like for an 11-year-old. Adolescence is tough enough. Help them protect their dignity . . . and chance at one day getting into college with an unscathed record.