Look around you and you’ll likely see every child – sometimes as young as a year old - holding a mobile phone in their hands these days. Maybe you’re wondering “why do parents give kids smartphones at such a young age”. Well, while we can’t provide any clarity about their reasons, we can help you with something else.
In this article, we explore a few studies and surveys that explore what is the right age to give children a mobile phone. We hope this helps you decide the perfect age to gift smartphones to your children.
How do mobile phones affect your child’s brain?
To choose the right phone-gifting age for your child, you need to first know how mobile phones affect their cognitive development. According to research done by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), mobile phones emit nonionizing radiation, which has been found to be a possible human carcinogen. The limited evidence observed shows a possibility of children developing brain health problems because of long-term radiation exposure.
Another Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study focused on the psychological effects of increased screen time for children from a young age. The study showed how a child’s attention span decreased, the sleep-wake cycle was disrupted, hindered social interaction with other kids & adults, and resulted in impulse control problems. The instantaneous gratification offered by cell phones resulted in problematic behaviors by children when such gratification was delayed.
Additionally, there is the issue of how a child handles the responsibilities and risks that come with owning a mobile phone. Issues such as digital bullying, cyber harassment, social media addiction, identity theft, cyber stalking, etc. can be very damaging to the child, not just emotionally or intellectually, but also physically.
Together, these risks must be considered before giving your child access to a phone or getting them their own phone.
How to decide when to give your kid a smartphone?
Ultimately, the decision comes down to your child’s personality and the proposed use objective.
Some children are very mature mentally and emotionally at a young age – sometimes as young as 9. It can be easy to explain to them the risks involved with using a phone, while also providing information about how they can handle these risks or where to seek help. Other kids mature slower and they may not be ready to handle the phone even when they are 15 or older.
Secondly, you need to consider why they need the phone. Is it for safety when they travel to school? Do they stay home alone for hours because you work long? Or, do they have a habit of eating their meals or doing their chores only if they have something to watch on the screen?
In these instances, you may need to put in place child-safety locks on your phone, barring them from accessing certain apps, while allowing them to use other needed features. Even negotiating a screen time limit with your kids, can be a healthy way to set phone use boundaries.
So, ultimately, the age at which you give your child a phone can be anywhere between 9 and 16, depending on their maturity. On average, most parents give their kids a cell phone around age 13.
But make sure you have a discussion with your kids about the risks and responsibilities associated with using or owning a phone. Plus, get a leather phone case from [company name] to protect the phones, since you know kids can get rough with their gadgets.