What is the most appropriate age to give your child a cell phone? This is a question every parent will be asking themselves at some point or another. Even if you have not made the decision to give your child a cell phone yet, most kids are still using some form of a device either from their parents, their siblings or their friends.
Let us pose this question to you… What is the most appropriate age to let your kids USE a smartphone or a device? How young is too young? How much time is too much? You may be asking, is this something we need to think about too??? Well, experts along with research says YES we SHOULD.
We’ve all seen the toddler sitting in their stroller with a tablet or a cell phone in their tiny hands. Shoot, you may even BE the mom who didn’t want your child reaching for every single item while strolling down the grocery store isle, so you handed your cell phone over just to keep those little hands busy and sanely finish up your shopping. We’ve all been guilty of using a device as a baby sitter at some point or another. But is it really something we should do on a regular basis?
Let’s break it down and take a look at each age group to see what research and experts have to say about a healthy amount of device exposure…
0-2 Years of Age:
Experts including The American Academy of Pediatrics discourage the use of media/devices for any child under the age of 2. In fact, it is highly recommended across the board that children under the age of 2 should NOT utilize smartphones or any other devices for that matter. If there is any screen time to be had for littles under 2, it should be with a parent.
2-5 Years of Age:
For kiddos between the ages of 2 – 5 years old, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that it is best to limit screen to no more than one hour a day. It is also advised during any screen time usage for kids under 5, that parents directly involve themselves with the content that is being viewed.
6-9 Years of Age:
When talking about screen time in general for this age group, you should be limiting their screen time to no more than two hours a day. Here, we are referring to game time, recreational use, or down time viewing such as TV shows, etc.
What about social media for this age group??? Experts say – it is absolutely not recommended. There are many reasons for this conclusion, one of the main reasons is that kids in this age group simply do not fully grasp the far reaching consequences of posting things online. After all, their critical-thinking skills do not even start to kick in until age 13. It is just better to say no to social media for this age group.
10-12 Years of Age:
The reality of today’s world is that this is the typical age group when most parents are giving their children an internet-enabled device. Though, according to Michael Cheng, a child and family psychiatrist at Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, parents should try to push back the age at which kids get their first smartphones to 16 years old. He bases this concept on the fact that he sees kids on a daily basis who are not only addicted to technology, but also suffer from depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.
However, at this age many parents have a real concern with wanting their kids to have phones so that they can keep in touch with them if they are not at home. This is a reasonable idea, so why not consider this: an old-school flip phone without internet access… these oldie but goodies can do the job just dandy!
We understand that an internet enabled device could be a “must” in your home, and if that is the case, it is recommended that you place some strict limits on their phone usage and even furthermore, look into installing parental controls onto the phone. And most importantly, this is the time to have a respectful conversation to lay down certain expectations about safe and healthy cellphone use.
Having a cell phone is a big deal for a teen and we believe in order to determine the “when” parents should consider the maturity level of their child. What type of conversations do you have with your teen? How responsive are they to the concerns with online interaction? Experts advice for teens is that they should be encouraged to only use social networks to connect with friends they have in real life. Studies show that teens who use social media to connect with their real life friends, it can help to strengthen those connections.
Talk with your teen about the dangers of interacting online and to avoid using social media to meet new people. This is where real trouble can be introduced and also lead to delusions of communicating with many people who really aren’t their “true” friends.