Should I get my child a smartphone? How old should my child be to get a cell phone? What are the risks involved with getting my kid a smartphone? When facing these decisions most parents feel completely powerless because cell phones are everywhere from the classroom, to social spaces and even at the family dinner table.
Here at The F.A.M. Project, (The Family Awareness Movement) we are all about bringing AWARENESS and valuable information to the table for you while you are in the midst of making these very important decisions. But before we dive into this topic, we want to make sure our message is clear here…
While smartphones can be a great resource and tool, there are also risks involved with their usage and as parents, we have a responsibility to make informed decisions and that is what we are going to talk about today. No, we are not saying that smart phones and devices are “bad” or that you should “never” allow them. What we ARE saying is that we believe parents should consider all things when determining these choices for their kids. We simply want to be a voice that encourages a healthy relationship between parents and their children. In order to accomplish that, we want to face the topics of today head on that families will inevitably experience in the home.
Smartphones and devices are one of those topics and there are some very important things parents should understand before handing over a cell phone to their children.
The Risks Involved with Smartphone Use
Smartphones Adversely Affect Brain Development. Smartphone usage at a very young age is damaging to the development of the brain. The constant over stimulation from screens on devices gives the brain hits of dopamine (and adrenaline) and this begins to cause the brain to become wired at an early age to crave an instant dopamine “high”.
Smartphones Put Your Child at a Higher Risk for Anxiety and Depression. Children are not emotionally equipped to deal with the sea of information on social media. As an adult it is difficult enough to sift through the negativity that is presented on social media platforms without becoming depressed. There is also plenty of research out there to show that the more time a person spends on social media the more likely they are to become depressed.
Smartphones Impair the Ability to Learn Basic Social Skills. Kids need face to face interaction. They need the opportunity to be outside and PLAY with other kids. Certain skills are learned from reading body language, noting certain facial expressions, and social cues from interaction with others. Getting to experience things such as what makes another child cry or what makes them laugh, or what to do when a friend falls off their bike will help them to develop empathy and patience.
Smartphones Interfere with the Ability to Get Good Sleep. Studies show that the use of phones or any device with a screen affects how much and how well you sleep. Whenever you use a device, a screen, or even a TV, these electronics emit a shortwave length called “blue-light” and this light is actually INTERFERING with your body and its chemistry. Read more here:
Smartphones Open the Door to Cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, a phone is the number one thing used today for cyber bullying. Stats show that nearly 1 out of 4 kids have experienced cyber bullying. Most kids are so embarrassed by it that only about 10% of the victims will ever even talk with a parent or another adult this abuse.
Smartphones Expose our Children to Pornography. Our kids online are specifically being marketed to lure them into the dangerous world of pornography. One study showed that 42% of online youth users have been exposed to pornography! This is ALARMING!! The study also showed that the majority of those kids were exposed through unwanted online ads.
Now… what do we do with all of this information?!?!?!?! We want to encourage you to take this information and speak with your children about the responsibility, risks involved and what to be aware of when operating a smartphone before you decide to give them one. Perhaps you may even consider a smartphone monitoring option and/or setting the appropriate parental controls up for their device. These are available options to help mitigate the some of these possibilities.
Ultimately, the decision of “the best age” to get your child a smartphone (which we will talk about in our next blog) or “IF” you should get your child a smartphone is up to you to determine what works best within your family dynamics.