Deciding how much access to smart phones your child has, is an important aspect that needs attention, particularly when there are many factors at play: easily accessibility, safety, the peer pressure on your child to have a phone, the convenience of the internet as well as the susceptibility to its dangers and so on.
It is not just one question that needs to be addressed, but several:
What is the right age for children to own cell phones?
What can and should they use it for?
Is there a way to educate them on the responsible use of cell phones?
How much check should be kept on their phone usage?
According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, “There is no age that all children should have a cell phone,” “It has to do with the maturity of the child, it has to do with how the cell phone is being used, and it has to do with the parent’s ability to understand how the child is using the phone.””
The primary factor here is the purpose for which the phone will be used:
Smartphones have become a need in today’s world: they are an efficient way to communicate with and keep track of children, particularly when they attend long hours of classes, tuitions, sports and similar activities. It helps eliminate the anxiety related to their safety and for all these reasons, is a benefit to parents, especially working parents.
With the changing times, it’s important to understand cell phone usage in order to take advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. A part of this would be understanding your own reservations and doubts about your child using a cell phone, and talking about this with your child, so that they understand your point of view.
Preparing them for the responsibilities of owning a smart phone is another crucial aspect, in terms of education regarding privacy, online safety and netiquette, to name a few. The drawbacks of internet misuse should clearly be mentioned to them.
Another important step to follow is setting guidelines for your child: in terms of the regular costs involved in cell phone use, limiting phone use during study time, bedtime, mealtimes and so on.
Lastly, the onus is on parents to set an example for responsible digital behaviour for their children It’s important to keep in mind that learning occurs well when it is done by emulation.