Smartphones are ubiquitous in today’s world, but when should children get their own devices? This is a question that many parents struggle with, as they balance the benefits and risks of giving their kids access to the internet, social media, games, and apps. According to a recent survey by The Irish Times, opinions vary widely among parents and experts on the best age for kids to get smartphones.
The pros and cons of smartphones for kids
Some parents believe that smartphones can be useful tools for communication, education, and entertainment for their children. They argue that smartphones can help kids stay in touch with their family and friends, learn new skills and information, and enjoy creative and fun activities. They also point out that smartphones can provide safety features, such as GPS tracking, emergency calls, and parental controls.
However, other parents are concerned about the potential harms of smartphones for their children. They worry that smartphones can expose kids to inappropriate or harmful content, cyberbullying, addiction, distraction, and privacy issues. They also fear that smartphones can interfere with kids’ social skills, mental health, sleep quality, and academic performance.
What the experts say
There is no definitive answer to the question of when kids should get smartphones, as different factors may influence the decision, such as the child’s maturity level, personality, needs, and interests. However, some experts have offered some general guidelines and tips for parents to consider.
- Kelly Oakes, a science journalist who wrote an article for BBC Future on the topic, suggests that parents should look at the evidence on the main risks and benefits of smartphone use for children, and weigh them against their own family’s situation. She also recommends that parents should set clear rules and boundaries for their children’s smartphone use, such as limiting screen time, monitoring online activity, and encouraging offline hobbies.
- Xiaoran Sun, a researcher who led a study by Stanford Medicine on the link between smartphone acquisition and well-being for children, says that there is no golden rule about waiting until a certain age to give kids smartphones. She found that the age at which kids received their first phones did not have a meaningful impact on their grades, sleep habits, or depression symptoms. She advises that parents should do what they think is right for their child and family, based on their needs and preferences.
- Panda Security, a cybersecurity company that conducted a survey on when kids should get smartphones, reports that 40% of Americans think kids should wait until middle school (age 11-13) before getting smartphones. Close behind, one-third of the respondents said that parents should wait until high school to give their kids smartphones. The company suggests that parents should consider the maturity level of their child, the purpose of the smartphone, and the potential dangers of online exposure before making the decision.
- SafeWise, a home security website that also published an article on what age should kids get a phone, cites a Pew Research Center survey that found that most parents (45%) think it’s acceptable for kids to have a phone between the ages of 12 and 14. About 28% of parents wait until ages 15 to 17, and 16% think it’s fine to let kids as young as 9 have their own phones. The website advises that parents should talk to their kids about their expectations and responsibilities regarding phone use, and use parental control apps or features to protect their kids from online risks.
What do you think?
The question of when kids should get smartphones is not an easy one to answer, as there are many factors to consider and opinions to respect. What do you think? What age do you think children should get a mobile phone at? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.