The issue of when children should receive their first mobile phone is a hotly debated topic these days so we have decided to devote our latest blog post to unpicking when, how and why children should or should not have their first mobile phone.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons.
(For quick readers, our conclusion is at the foot of this article).
Safety and Security
For both parents and children alike, the knowledge that the other party is simply a phone call away is comforting and, in emergencies, priceless.
(Additionally, for parents that have particular safety concerns regarding their children, most phones can have GPS tracking systems installed so that the exact or approximate location of the phone can be pinpointed at any given time online).
A million potential daily issues can lead to a spontaneous desire or need to contact to your child. Maybe you are running late for a pickup, would like them to run an errand of some sort, or simply want to express that you are thinking of them. Mobile phones certainly help with your ability to make this happen.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85% of children aged 14-17 already have mobile phones. Even 69% of 11-14 year olds have mobile phones. Without mobile phones, children are likely to encounter more difficulty in cementing new friendships and finding out about popular social events like birthdays and parties than their mobile using peers.
The Opportunity to be Responsible
Equipping your child with a mobile device allows them to display their level of responsibility to you. From being responsive to your contact attempts to taking care of their device and not losing it, there are opportunities for mobiles to be used as a tool to display maturity and responsibility.
Dangers & Considerations
Excessive Distraction and Time-Wasting
Endless text messaging, Youtube, Facebook & Instagram are just examples of hundreds of distractions that children are exposed to through mobile phones.
These platforms, designed to lure and maintain the attention of adults, let alone children, are serious issues that parents need to weigh up against the personalities of their children. A growing body of studies are showing that Facebook users alone are linked with lower self esteem, jealousy & depression (Schwatrz et al. 2010). Some studies have even linked the usage of this platform to lower grades.
Cyberbullying or cyberharassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic forms of contact. Cyberbullying has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers. This is a useful link to understand more on this topic.
Access to Adult Content
This spans beyond the obvious, more pornographic areas of the internet. Chat forums and social media often provide the platform for discussion of topics that are inappropriate for children.
Withdrawal & Punishment
Threatening to take the mobile phone away or actually taking it can result in an outraged child. The addiction to mobile phones often damages the parent-child relationship by creating resentment in both parties.
Whilst research into the health risks of mobile phones is still in it's infancy, there are some glaringly obvious issues with mobile phone usage- mainly the development of sedentary lifestyles and the health risks that arise from this.
There are concerns that the low levels of radio frequency radiation emitted by mobile phones could cause health problems such as headaches or brain tumours. Neither of these potential issues are specific to children however.
Exposure to Pests
There were 799,041 Registered Sex Offenders in the United States alone as of 2015.
One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give out personal sexual information.
Financial Cost of Devices
Although every child varies in their level of care and responsibility, children are (on the whole) far more likely to lose of break their devices than adults are. Therefore, splashing cash on expensive gadgets is something that parents may wish to hold off on initially.
Runaway Data Charges
Your bill can skyrocket without your child understanding that they’re costing you money on games and other apps. Before this is realised, it is often too late.
Crossing The Line
This is something that all parents will believe their child is not capable of, but it is worth mentioning. Imagine your child texts or posts something inappropriate themselves. This can be damaging, and permanent.
For many parents, the most obvious drawback of the mobile phone is how it dominates the attention of their child. As parents, perhaps some attention should also be paid towards how you yourself use mobile devices around your child as an example!
Although the benefits are clear for all to see, there an undoubted risks involved in the use of mobile phones amongst youth. Based on the above points, it seems that at least the number of potential drawbacks exceed the number of benefits.
Parents should closely consider the introduction of mobile phones- as once they are a part of a child’s life they can be hard to remove. Each child and scenario is different however and parents are best equipped to understand their child’s personality and readiness to be launched into the wide world of mobile (ab)use. Based on what we have read on this subject, children are likely to be ready for these devices between 12-14yrs. Perhaps the use of a more basic, non-smart phone can do the trick until then.
We hope you enjoyed this article and would love to hear your views.