Only a couple of decades ago, it was common not to have a mobile phone. Now, it’s rare to find someone without a phone glued to their hand.
Technology has advanced quickly and has become so accessible that even toddlers know how to unlock phones and open apps.
However, we must stop and wonder what the long-term effects of childhood phone usage are. Here we will compare the risks and benefits to help you consider before you add a phone to your kid’s back-to-school shopping list.
The Benefits of Mobile Phones for Children:
Gather Knowledge for Personal and Academic Use
There are countless times we have had to look something up, whether it be directions, the meaning of a word, or the weather forecast. It’s only fair that children have the same access to this fountain of knowledge.
If there’s concern about what they come across, safety filters can be activated to ensure they’ll only find family-friendly content.
Tracking and Staying In Touch
At a certain age, they have a schedule and places to be. Keeping up with them at every step of the way is nearly impossible, especially if you have more than one child, or you work a full-time job. Monitoring is another benefit that allows parents to stay up to date and reach their kids instantly.
Opportunities for Social Contact with Peers
The era of house phones is over. Now, if your children want to stay in touch, they’ll use texting, social media platforms, and call each other.
The Ability to Communicate in Emergency Situations
In a dangerous situation, a child’s mobile phone can be their lifeline. If something happens, you want your kids to be able to reach you or emergency services if an adult is not able to.
The Risks of mobile Phones for Children:
Exposure to mobile Phone Radiation
Radio frequency radiation, which is emitted by mobile phones and other wireless communication devices, is believed to be harmful. Studies are being done that recommend caution when it comes to continuous mobile phone use.
While mobile phone radio frequency energy rate is below the FCC’s safe limit, you may want to avoid the possible adverse health effects. Keeping your phone away from your body and using an EMF-Harmony protection device will help reduce the risks of the possible carcinogenic effects.
Disrupts Sleep and Concentration
Notifications and too much screen time can result in poor sleep quality. Not only does scrolling your feed before bed make it harder to fall and stay asleep, but it can lead to phone dependency.
Every time you check your phone, it lights up the reward system in your brain that releases dopamine. Without discipline and maturity, phones can be difficult to ignore and can affect sleep and academic performance. Talk with your child about limiting screen time and turning off notifications for games and social media.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Childhood Obesity
Research done on university students shows that using a smartphone five or more hours a day had a 43% increased risk of obesity. Users who had too much screen time were less likely to keep moving or show any interest in physical activity. They were also more likely to consume high-calorie foods and sugary drinks.
Vulnerability to Cyberbullying and Child Predators
“Stranger danger” and sexual predators are often the first risks that occur to parents. With the rise of social media, it’s important to talk to your child about keeping information private and avoiding conversations with strangers.
Another concern is cyberbullying. It takes maturity to care for an expensive device, but it also takes emotional and social maturity on how to use it correctly. While bullying has always existed, the widespread use of phones makes it easier for children to become the aggressor or the target.
What Is the Right Age for Phone Usage?
Recent research shows that the average age a child gets their first smartphone is 10 years old. That same study shows that by age 12, a full 50 percent of children have social media accounts. Some families feel that this is far too soon, and create a system where the child can communicate and hold a social life efficiently without one.
In short, there’s no good answer to that question. Many parents will begin to think about providing their child with a phone during the middle school years when kids are more likely to be involved in after school activities and more likely to be home alone.
Most importantly, don’t feel pressured to provide your children with a mobile phone at a certain age just because “everyone else is doing it”. It’s between you and your child to determine the best age and if you believe they’re responsible enough for one.
If you’re indecisive, you can add restrictions to ease your concerns. Talk with your phone service provider about possible parental controls and tracking methods.
There’s no specific age that’s determined to be the “right time” for a child to get a mobile phone. Buying one varies for each child, parent, and situation. However, it’s best to consider and prepare for all the possibilities before providing a child with a smartphone.
Remember: having a phone is not a right – it’s a privilege. Weigh up the pros and cons to decide what’s best in your situation.