This week we asked our Parents Talk panel:
There is no doubt we live in a highly connected society these days and as such, we are seeing kids as young as 2 or 3 being able to navigate mobile phones better than some adults. Scary thought! But because they can, doesn’t mean they need their own mobile phone yet.
Kids shouldn’t be given mobile phones until there is a real need for it. If your child is old enough to start spending time away from home, such as attending events or social situations with friends, or doing after school and weekend sport or hobby activities and may need to reach you, that’s when it’s time to consider. For most kids, this won’t be until early high school at least and even then you may consider giving it to them only while they are out.
It should be at an age when your child can show responsibility with their mobile phone, not blowing all their credit chatting with friends, but having it for when they need to be reachable or reach someone else. Not because all their friends have one already!
This is such a loaded question, and I’m tempted to say (excuse me while I put on my cranky old lady pants) that kids today get enough screen time! They don’t need a phone thrown into the mix! They should be out in the fresh air, kicking a ball, playing with their friends! Well, I do believe that’s kind of true, but times have changed and we have to change with them. Put your hand up if you spend too much time hunched over your own mobile phone? I’ll be the first to raise my hand, guilty as charged. I’m probably not talking to anyone on an actual phone call, I’m probably checking Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or texting.
The reasonable argument is to say that a child should have a mobile phone when they need one. For my eldest, this meant that toward the end of primary school when I was in full time work and she was getting a bus to after school care. We were worried that she might need to contact us and wouldn’t be able to, so we got her a very basic phone and it was the answer we all needed, however this was back in the dark ages before smart phones. My youngest two already have access to the internet via a variety of devices, and are picked up from school by at least one parent every day, so the need for a phone isn’t so great. Maybe if I go back to work that might change, but with most children having some sort of internet enabling device these days, is making a phone call even needed?
As a mother to an almost 4 year old one thing I can say is that I am very concerned for this young generation who have been born into the world of smartphones and I will not be giving my son one until there is a definite need.
My thought on the matter is that if you are dropping your child off at school and picking them up again or if they catch a bus to school and then home again, there should be no reason for them to have a phone, you know where they are - They’re either at school, on the bus or they’re with you.
As they get older though and are allowed to go out with their friends to the movies without you, or when they get their car license, yes, of course, they should have a mobile phone but not a smartphone, at least until they can pay for it themselves. Give them a phone that’s basic, one that makes out calls only and to a few selected numbers. Isn’t the point of giving a child a phone to get in contact with you, the parent?
I may be a bit old school, but I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was in grade 12 when I got my driver’s license and I did just fine. It was a brick of a phone, no smart phones back then, but that’s all I needed and before getting the phone, I was fine using pay phones, I survived. Mum and dad had a reverse charges number set up just in case we didn’t have the 40 cents we needed to make a call.
So in answer to the question, I think when your child is old enough to start going out on their own, that’s when it’s appropriate to give them a phone. But do them and yourself a favour, don’t let it be a smartphone!