Parenting

Children and Smart Phones; what is the appropriate age?

 

The endless challenges that we, as parents of the 21st century, face are beyond one’s imagination and having our children possess their own smart phones is one of them!

At what age are children mature enough to have their own smart phones?

It is essential to realize that once we give our children this opportunity, we are actually setting on our shoulders a huge responsibility. It is our duty to pave the road for them and guide them into using those phones properly.

Unfortunately, there are alarming disadvantages to the extreme usage of smart phones and the functions they carry along with them. First, by nature the applications are addictive and one can easily get hooked on them.

This will result in having the child lose interest in previously loved activities, and loss of social interaction. Second, possessing a smart phone at a young age damages the natural growth of the brain and might lead to other health problems.

Finally, the constant exposure to screens impacts a child’s vision.  Knowing all of this and many other negative consequences that might arise due to the uncontrolled usage of smart phones, we have to teach and guide our children in knowing how to handle those gadgets properly.

After all, technology by itself is not bad, but the way it is left to be used and abused is what signals red flags in our parenting experience.

Based on the Canadian Pediatric Society, it is advised that children below the age of nine do not possess any smart phones. At this age, they are vulnerable and are unable to deal with any type of cyber bullying. Beyond that, the children need to understand that having their own mobile smart phones is a privilege and they need to respect the trust that has been bestowed to them by their parents. After the age of fourteen, it is advised that the parents keep a keen mind and an open eye to observe any major behavioral differences that might arise on both the mental and physical conditions of their children.

It is essential, therefore, to set certain rules and regulations which fit with the norms and conducts of each family before purchasing those smart mobiles. Here are some tips we may use to help our children control their use of smart phones:

                                       

Where to use them

One good strategy is to first agree with the child as to where s/he is able to use the phone. For example, when the family is gathered for lunch or dinner all phones must be set aside away from the table. This helps in establishing a proper communication and connection as a family. Another good idea is to have them get into the habit of turning their phones off at night and place them outside their bedroom.

 

When to use them

Another important regulation is to agree when the child can use the phone. This would vary according to the child’s age and level of maturity. For example, children should not be allowed to use the phone for more than a specific amount of time during the day. The younger the child is, the less the hours s/he should be subjected to the phone. It is also essential to agree that the child should learn to respect the presence of others and the circumstances around them before indulging into their phones.

 

How to use them

Here lies our duty, as parents, to successfully be able to guide our children into knowing how to use those smart phones responsibly.

One of the best methods that we have implemented with our children is signing a contract where we set all the rules and the consequences related to the usage of the smart phone. We have discussed those regulations in details and they were able to understand that certain consequences will be implemented if they are unable to abide by the agreement.

Signing a contract with a child invests in them a sense of trust and accountability. They would admire the fact that we are actually treating them like grown-ups, especially because it is based on an honest and open communication tactic coming from both sides.

 

Verbalize Your Love:

Another successful parenting tip is to make our children comprehend that because we love them and because we care about their well-being, we are setting these limits and certain restrictions to the handling of these devices which, sooner or later, could negatively impact their growth. Children need to hear those words as they foster and nurture a feeling of confidence and inner strength. They will eventually realize that we will always support them despite the mistakes which they might tackle as they grow into adulthood.

 

Knowing that parenting does not come with a manual and keeping in mind that most of the methods we apply are based on trial and error, we continue to strive in finding the right information from other parents’ experiences and experts’ opinions. After all, we all aim towards our children’s health and wellness, and we all seek to provide them with the best possible life opportunities.

Finally, as parents, we need to give ourselves the chance to assess our parenting skills with our partners on a regular basis. Having these open discussions and being able to recognize our faults does not only help in knowing how to deal with the challenges of technology and smart phones, but also with any other child-rearing encounter.

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