The holidays are upon us. What are you thinking about getting your young child?
Kids are getting devices at earlier and earlier ages. According to a 2013 e-marketer survey – roughly two-thirds of kids between fourteen years old and seventeen years old own a smartphone. No surprise there, right? But you might be shocked to find out that the same survey of parents found that one in four kids two to five years old own a smartphone. That’s right… your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you! Pretty amazing isn’t it? Personally I think that’s crazy. Clearly there is money to be made, since Sprint just came out with the WeGo phone for five year olds. They did make it shatterproof and water resistant which is about all they got right about giving this product to young children; parents do give young children plastic cups for a reason!
So let’s talk about age suitability for phones. Frankly, I just don’t get it. I don’t agree with some of the extreme positions saying that the correct age to get a smartphone is sixteen, arguing that a mobile phone is a potentially dangerous device and “in the wrong hands can be deadly.”
But why on earth does a five year old need a phone? Middle School -Yes. Kindergarten and elementary school, No; except in certain circumstances (child with a medical problem for example). Middle school kids need rides from parents, as they participate in activities away from home and go to friends homes. Parents also want tweens and teens to have phones for safety reasons, so that they can reach out for help in the event that they find themselves in a troubling situation. Parents may also want to check-in with them to see where they are and what they’re doing. Tweens and teens also use them for social reasons, texting like crazy as we all know. F.Y.I the average teen texts 3400 messages a month.
Young children need to be children. They need to learn to interact face to face with their peers not devices. It’s bad enough that tweens and teens text each other while in the same car or at the same dinner table. Don’t you just hate that? It is an easy way for them to hide the conversation they’re having from that chauffeur in the car, you!
Parents, caregivers or educators are near by, so young children certainly don’t need a smartphone for safety reasons. Sprint apparently thinks they not only need a phone but may encounter a panic situation. The WeGo phone has a tether pull string panic alarm. Really? What kind of panic situation would a five year old encounter except for medical concerns? Hmmm maybe the cookie jar is empty.
Also, what about language skills and the use of smartphones? Do young children need to be texting? Texting is often full of acronyms and abbreviations and is bereft of grammar. Personally I think young children should learn to use the English language correctly and learn some basic punctuation before they think that LOLing, emoticons and smiley faces are the correct way to write.
How many of us have experienced the tween or teen while on vacation that would rather stare down into their smartphone at a museum sitting on the bench in the middle of the room, than look at the priceless works of art that surround them. There are numerous examples of this behavior… the teen that would prefer to sit in the lodge texting with friends rather than enjoy skiing on the slopes. I could go on and on. What these situations all have in common are that these kids are missing the wonderful world around them. And will probably end up with some form of cellphone scoliosis from having their heads down constantly. There is new research about how smartphones maybe damaging our spines resulting in what is called text neck.
I say enough already. Let’s use some common sense and health sense.
One dad of young children recently said that he didn’t know if he could resist the pressure of other kids getting devices and not letting his kids get them too. Age didn’t seem to matter to this Dad. When did this way of thinking begin? Shouldn’t we be looking out for what’s best and healthiest for kids first? Will this same Dad let his child have an underage drinking party because the parents down the street do? The companies that sell these devices aren’t looking out for your kids. You have to look out for your kids.
Health reasons why young children shouldn’t have smartphones?
Studies have found that use of technology under the age of twelve years old can have a negative impact on child development and learning. Kids need to be moving around, not staring at a computer device. In fact, John Ratey, MD argues that physical activity turns our brains on. Cris Rowan says that the “four critical factors necessary to achieve healthy child development are movement, touch, human connection, and exposure to nature.”
Kids also need face to face interaction to develop interpersonal relationships and social skills. “Voice inflection, body language, facial expression and the pheromones (released during face-to-face interaction): These are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology.”
You are doing your child a favor by limiting technology. It’s really OK if you stand up for Good Parenting. Just think your child will be building lego buildings, constructing forts in the living room, coloring with 1001 crayons, looking at story books, or running around in the backyard. In other words they will be working hard at being the best kids they can be and you will be the better parent.