The dependence on technology and the necessity of having information at our fingers is steadily on the rise. The number of teenagers with cell phones has doubled since 2004 with approximately 85% of all teenagers from age 14-17 having a cell phone. When does a parent know the right time to introduce their children to such a piece of technology? What does having a cell phone really mean? How does having a cell phone affect their growth and development? Read on for a clearer picture about children and their relationship with cell phones.
The age parents feel that their children are ready for cell phones is a personal and individual choice. The answer is generally dependent on the child’s maturity, responsibility and the need to contact each other. Situations that would warrant this communication would include divorce and different living arrangements, extra-curricular activities where transportation and location might be an issue. Having this ability to reach out often is the difference between worry and peace of mind.
What about the influences the cell phone can have on your child? Some studies suggest a direct correlation between decreased attention span, wrist problems such as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis as well as disrupted sleep cycles and cell phone use. Cyberbullying, sexting, and other forms of harassment are also unfortunate realities of cell phone and internet usage and have been shown to have lasting effects on children’s psyche.
Many of these problems can be solved by creating cell phone usage rules: restricted application access, no-cell phone areas e.g. dinner table, and a cell phone cut off time before bedtime. Many cell phones also come with built-in parental control so that you can guarantee good cell phone practices.
Just as important as the external influence are the internal individual considerations for your child. Does your child have sufficient maturity at their age to handle the responsibility of such an expensive asset? Will they be able to keep it on their person: safe, charged and within the phone’s contract plan?
Other practical things to consider include language development: are they able to explain and express themselves well in writing? How well can they interpret tone and register without body language or facial expression? Are they able to draw the line between appropriate and irrelevant information? Having a cell phone can positively influence a child to better their communication skills – translating well into real life.
Cell phones are no longer just telephonic communication devices – they open up access to the infinite expanse of the internet. Will they be able to understand the ramifications of their actions with the phone? Do they understand the permanency of a cyber footprint? Will they be able to understand the importance of and practice good cyber safety? This includes good passwords, appropriate content, and click bait protection.
The most important thing to realize is that there is no perfect answer to the question of ‘when’ – every child and every parent are different and your decisions should be tailored to those differences. You have to keep asking the right questions to find the best answers. Remember to take authority and set the rules for usage to ensure safe and good practices. Accurately and objectively assess your child’s maturity and responsibility levels. Keep reassessing. Lastly, keep looking for tips and learn from and be aware of the environment around you.
The above article contains general information on the topic of which it was written. Some statements and/or suggestions contained within may apply to you, while others may not. For information and guidance on a personalized, individualized question and answer approach formatted just for you, please visit our parenting questions service page.