We hear a lot these days about teenagers and their smartphone usage. It’s generally known and accepted that teens have a tendency to become addicted to their mobile phones and tablets, and that there are all sorts of potential dangers to be found online.
But what about preteens? Children are using smartphones and going online at earlier ages than ever and they deserve monitoring and protection just as much as older kids. In fact, in some ways, younger children need even more parental control and monitoring when it comes to accessing the internet through smartphones and other devices.
What’s the Right Age for a Kid to Begin Carrying a Smartphone?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Experts and parents all have their own theories on the subject, but ultimately the decision is up to individual parents.
It’s also a difficult subject because kids want smartphones as soon as they can get their hands on one, and who can blame them? With all the kid-friendly games and apps being developed, along with the ability to chat with friends, watch videos, etc., it’s easy to understand the attraction.
And of course, there’s always peer pressure. “If Jimmy or Sally already has one, then why can’t I have one, too?” Every parent knows this line of questioning, and it can indeed be a challenge to come up with a good answer regarding smartphones.
In fact, there are some fairly compelling arguments in favor of younger kids carrying smartphones, especially if monitoring software has been installed. For instance, a smartphone can be a very valuable tracking tool if the parent has remote access to it through a monitoring app - most of these apps include a GPS tracking feature that allows a parent to see their child’s location on a map in real time. This capability alone may be enough justification for even elementary school-age kids to own a smartphone.
At any rate, more and more kids are smartphone users at earlier and earlier ages. A recent study found that 56 percent of children between the age of 10 and 13 carry smartphones. But the really surprising finding was that 25 percent of kids between the age of two and five already have smartphones.
The Pros and Cons
Of course, these days it’s not a matter of if a child should have a smartphone, but rather when should they be allowed to begin carrying one and what should they be able to use it for.
On the one hand, smartphones are great for communicating with parents and can also be valuable educational tools. Google Play and the Apple App Store offer lots of well-designed educational apps on a variety of subjects.
Smartphones can also be helpful logistically. If a child is involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, a smartphone can be useful for managing schedules.
On the other hand, smartphones can be very addictive and, as I mentioned before, there are lots of potential dangers associated with being online. Bullies, sexual predators, sexting, bad influences, pornography, violent games and exposure to other inappropriate content - these are all things that parents are understandably concerned about.
What are the Best Strategies?
Most experts agree that before a certain age no child should have full access to a smartphone.
Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, says:
“Giving a smartphone to a child younger than sixth grade is not reasonable, sensible or developmentally appropriate.”
There is also general agreement that a child’s use of smartphones at an early age should be strictly limited. When a smartphone is first given to a child, the use of it should be limited to the necessities, such as communicating with parents.
Once a child has shown that he or she can handle the basic responsibilities of using a smartphone, other privileges may be added.
Until a child is at an age and level of maturity where he or she can be trusted to use the technology wisely, parents should strictly monitor and control their use of any internet-connected devices.
In other words, until a child is around the age of twelve or so, their access to smartphones should be limited to occasional use only. Once they are at an age where they are allowed to begin carrying one, a parent should make sure that the time spent online is limited and watched closely.
The best way to accomplish this is through the installation of a monitoring app, such as the ones available from SpyStealth and mSpy, two of the most trusted and useful cell phone monitoring software products on the market.
These apps allow parents to see how much time their kids spend online, who they are communicating with, and what they are sharing and viewing. These apps also give a fix on a child’s physical whereabouts.
This is the easiest and most effective way to help protect a child while giving them access to a valuable communication and learning tool. It’s the only way to fully monitor your kid’s online activities and for the first few years that a child carries a smartphone, full monitoring is highly recommended.
These apps represent the middle ground between the extremes of denying access to a potentially dangerous, yet useful, technology - or merely giving a smartphone to a child and hoping for the best outcome. It is possible to manage a child’s online behavior in a rational and organized manner through the judicious use of a smartphone monitoring app.