Nowadays, it seems like just about everyone has a smartphone. Even young kids want them, and parents receive conflicting advice on whether phones are appropriate for children. Smartphones have advantages for kids, but there are potential pitfalls that parents need to take seriously.
Benefits of Smartphones
Having a smartphone is an easy way for families to stay connected. If there’s an emergency or a last-minute change of plans, relatives can quickly reach each other, no matter where they are.
A smartphone can help if a child gets lost or is in a dangerous situation. He or she can call, text or use a navigation app to figure out how to get home. Additionally, a parent or law enforcement can track the phone’s location to find a missing child.
Smartphones can also be useful academically. A calculator can help kids with math, and access to the internet can help them find answers to questions and stay on top of current events. Kids can also download educational apps and games.
Children will need to be familiar with technology to succeed in school and at future jobs. People adapt to new technology much more easily when they are young than they do as adults. Kids who use smartphones on a regular basis will grow up feeling comfortable with technology and will be able to easily adjust to changes in the future.
Possible Problems With Smartphones
When kids have smartphones, it can be difficult for parents to monitor what they’re seeing and hearing online. Children can come across all sorts of material that can be confusing, psychologically harmful or not age appropriate. Parents might be able to limit their kids’ access to some websites, but it can be hard to protect children from all potentially harmful online content.
Cyberbullying is a serious problem. With so many young people active on social media and struggling to fit in, some may say or do things that are hurtful to others in order to win the approval of their peers. Kids may feel rejected or ostracized, and negative comments, pictures and videos can go viral and cause widespread and long-term harm.
Some people spend so much time focused on technology that they have trouble participating in everyday life. Kids may be distracted by their phones and have difficulty concentrating in class. They may be so fascinated by video games or so focused on social media that they’re reluctant to participate in face-to-face conversations with people in the same room. This can lead to feelings of isolation and can undermine family relationships.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Smartphones
Smartphones can help kids learn, communicate and prepare for a technology-focused future, but, like anything else, they can also lead to problems if they’re not used correctly. If your child wants a smartphone, discuss the potential dangers of online content and social media. Limit the amount of time your child can use the phone each day, and make sure he or she stays engaged with others.