Is It Time to Give Your Child Their Own Cellphone?
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Did you know that children now account for 54% of Americans? There are currently more than 431 million Americans of all ages, 5.7 million of whom are 12 years or younger. That’s 56% of Americans! More than 15% of the people in the world already have a smartphone. As mobile devices become more affordable, these numbers will continue to grow.
I’m happy to share that I have two children, but I think they’re better off having two cell phones for the family. The new study from Statista shows that 76.6% of middle school students have a smartphone or another device. And 13% of all children between age 11 and 14 now have a smartphone. But it’s not all sunny with regards to the vast majority of children with smartphones. A survey released by The Mary Kay Foundation last December found that 84% of cell-cownload children spend more than two hours each day on their phones. 58% of middle-school children reported that they face “embarrassment” when others see them texting.
The new-wave, younger-generation smartphone users often find themselves captivated by the wide variety of apps available for the gadget. It’s all part of the increasing digital disorientation for some kids. Social media filters out the real context around us, obscuring the real opportunity to get to know other people. And the photos they post are often staged and one-dimensional. Many children would much rather have a “real” conversation and be more genuine about their actions or feelings.
I believe having a cell phone on one’s bedside table is a place from which you can almost write your daily schedule. But it’s not a therapeutic outlet to say “good morning” or get the news. It’s a place from which you can feel confident in the fact that you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. It is a toy at the same time it is a tool for generating interaction. If you’re really trying to connect with other people, your real relationship is where you find out what is really important to them and how to make that happen in a way that works for both of you.
Parents need to think carefully before installing a cellphone on their child’s bedside table. This may seem like a sure-fire way to connect with your child, but what do you get in return? Safety? Well, texting is dangerous and brings out the worst in people. Have the phone with you when you’re out with your child. Being too dependent on a smart phone is a double-edged sword for tweens. And it’s not enough to just have this gadget on your kid. Use your cell phone as a conversation starter. Make sure the questions are going to be socially conversational and meaningful.
There is nothing wrong with parents having a cell phone at the ready for emergencies. But there is a lot wrong with having the kid rely on the phone to ask for help, or to react to anything else in the world. This is not what your child needs in order to be connected. If you’re looking for tools for connecting with your child, look for apps that are safe, self-checking, and funny. The Snaptic app was designed with tweens in mind. The “Snaptic” symbol on the app’s icon triggers a rapid-fire series of beeps to elicit a response from a user’s friends and peers. The app alerts friends about when they need help, when it’s time to hang up the phone, and to encourage youngsters to make good decisions when making calls.
As parents, we need to create a secure space for our children. You should never feel pressure to give them a cellphone to feel connected. And you should instead take every opportunity to connect with them.
If you’re not a parent who is posting photos of their children, but would like to do so, here’s how to do it right.
Anya Kamenetz is a co-founder of ThisMoment.com. The website is a comprehensive resource on technology, parenting, culture, and raising kids in the age of technology.
Thank you for reading.