This is one of the questions most parents have in their mind and at the same time worried about. Most of the parents tend to give their children a mobile phone to better handle their safety and to stay in touch all the time. But at the same time the same smart phone usage pattern by their children can turn out to be a nightmare for some parents.
Remember, although smart phone is a device of choice and has pros but it is not free from cons. It will open a Pandora box for a child. It is equipped with all the means which when misused can put you and your child in trouble. So before handing over a smart phone to your child you must have your thoughts clear about its usage by your child.
There is no fixed age that can be set to hand over a smart phone to a child. This is true that smart phones expose your children to a variety of apps and learning opportunities but at the same time it exposes your children to addicting with games, porn, picture sharing and lethargy. In that scenario it becomes very important to understand that, before you give your child a smart phone, make sure he/she is mature enough and understands that this tool is to be used with responsibility.
Every child is different from others. What I mean to say that some children can handle smart phone with more self control than others. When asked and interviewed with around 50 such parents for which age is correct to hand over smart phone to their kids, the answer were varying but majority was of the view that once a child goes into teens, they can handle it.
But the answers of these parents were all their beliefs. There were none or very few parameters used to base their judgment about whether the child can handle smart phone with desired controls and most almost 75% parents were not tracking their children’s activity on smart phone.
Some parents told that ideally, you should hand over a smart phone to your kids when they grow into adulthood. At that time, the child has nearly completed his development of pre-frontal cortex which confirms that the child has at least passed his childhood and attained maturity, but again the developmental graph of each of the child is different.
Ask these questions to yourself to find out if your child is mature enough:
- Is your child is addicted to (overusing) games at home or other places?
- Is he/she takes your phone and often play with it?
- Does he/she spend more time on smart phone than regular study times?
- Is he/she skipping outdoor activities?
- Is he/she distracted from studies due to interest in smart phone?
- Is he/she brag about his/her phone with his/her friends?
- Is he/she using phone in washrooms?
- Is he using phone while dining?
- Is he not interacting enough or losing interest in social gathering?
Make an agreement with your child
Sit with your child and talk to them and let them agree to your term of usage. Also give him/her a chance to speak out their concerns or logic behind using it otherwise. It will make the child more responsible to what he/she agrees to.Include these into the agreement:
- He will not use in the washroom?
- He will switch off when on the dining table?
- He will switch it off after 8PM or 9PM?
- He will always pick the phone of parents and family members without condition.
- If he is out for more than 2 hrs, he will inform about his whereabouts.
- You will check his phone’s text messages and contacts.
- You will have his phone’s password.
If he/she fails in obliging any of the above conditions, you will take away the phone from the child.
Monitor your child’s apps and their usage
Even after all these conditions, if your child’s smart phone has internet connection, you have all the reason to worry and stay vigilant. Give them a smart phone which has parental control features where you will have the password and control the accessible features on that phone. You can control which apps your children will consume and apps / content to deny.
Use Apps with Parental Control
Many phones come with parental control. Apple i-phone is one of them. Use such phones. Androids do not come with such built in features but there are apps on Google play store which adds this feature to your phone. These apps or phones can control accessibility and restrict your child from smart phone abuse.
Stagger your strategy before you hand over a smart phone
You can also carry out a strategic plan to giving your child a smart phone:
- First, you give him a desktop computer
- After that give him a tablet
- And finally hand over a smart phone when you are satisfied that he is not over obsessed and carrying out all his duties with the promises as mentioned above.
Limit usage time of smart phone
Overuse of smart phone also has some medical and social considerations:
- Can cause vision issues
- Can feel socially uncomfortable
- Can cause depression
- Can cause radiation exposure
Train your child for better handling of smart phone
Set an example – Kids learn naturally from their parents. If you are over using smart phones, then it will go straight into your child. Adjust your own behavior which you want in your child.
Induce self control – Start with allowing your child to use smart phone from home with a set time limit and when you are confident that he is not misusing it then only go ahead with giving him/her a phone.
Train them passively – Allow them with discipline. Force them to switch off his/her phone while studying, dining and sleeping. Force them to sleep on time and not compromise with health.
Share your experiences - Share good smart phone usage experience with your kids. It will help him/her decide how to put smart phone into good usage.
When child grows into their teens they are more likely to be with their friend’s and communicating with them more than the family members. This is the time when family influence is being shared by the friendship. This is the outing age or exploring age we can say. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the social evils and criminal conducts of unsocial elements within the society. This also makes them vulnerable to take wrong advices and flow with the conduct of their friend circle. This is also an age which takes them along into adult hood when they become liable to criminal laws where there is no provision of forgiveness.
When you hand over a smart phone to a well trained child having usage control, good habits and understanding their social obligations, you are more likely to less worried and happier.