18 May Phone Addiction and Children: When should kids get phones?
Our lifestyles have changed drastically in the last ten years since the iPhone was released. And not always for the better. Technology has invaded all aspects of our lives, promoting an ‘always-on’ culture which prevents us from unplugging and disconnecting. Something that is crucial, above all for our mental health. Our obsession with our digital devices has also changed the way we parent. Although the internet is an invaluable information source for parents, we are also witnessing children using screens from a much younger age. Do you remember climbing trees as a child and coming home covered in mud? Will your children have the same memories? We’re sharing advice on a common 21st-century parenting dilemma: should kids have smartphones? When should they get their first?
The under 13 rule
It’s a depressing sight to see babies and toddlers playing with smartphones, already adept at ‘swiping’ and using touch screens. Our view is that children under 13 do not need their own smartphone. Many parents worry that their kids need a phone for emergencies, to use when travelling to school etc. Our solution? Provide your children with a ‘dumb’ phone, such as the Punkt phone. Your kids can still make calls in an emergency. After this concern is eliminated, what is a smartphone really needed for? Gaming? Messaging? It starts to seem less of a need and more of a want. Our children’s lives definitely don’t need to be screen-free, however, an upbringing focused around digital devices from a young age stifles creativity, exploration and childhood adventure. As the pre-frontal cortex of the brain isn’t fully developed until we’re 25, there is also debate on how our technology use could be damaging young brains.
The under 17 rule
We understand that our devices have become a huge part of popular culture and denying our teenagers the right to participate is almost impossible. Plus, a certain quota of screen time actually aids creativity and wellbeing. However, like anything in life, our relationship with technology should also spell moderation and balance. We don’t believe that teens under 16/17 years old are able to self-regulate their phone use. After all, they are designed to be addictive!
We have written a lot of articles on taming teen tech time. But, really, the solution is simple. Create boundaries and lead by example. Ban smartphones from your teenagers’ bedroom at night and do the same for yourself. Using digital devices in bed keeps us feeling alert and disrupts our sleep quality. As many as 44% of teens admit their screens keep them up at night. And as a lack of sleep is linked to poor mental health and academic attainment, this is one of the most important digital boundaries to build at home.
We believe that children under 13 should not have their own smartphone. The ‘only for emergencies’ argument is invalid when you provide them with a basic ‘dumb’ phone that enables them to make and receive calls. Teens need to learn to set boundaries around their technology use, something which will only be achieved by a good example. Why? Digital addiction is rising, interrupting our social lives, productivity and damaging our mental health. Learning to go phone-free at a young age reduces the risk of nomophobia – becoming anxious when not able to access your phone. This allows young people to concentrate on their studies, build strong social skills and, importantly, get a good night’s sleep!