A recent news story reported that 35% of 8 to 11 year olds now own a mobile phone. One parent said that it provided peace of mind knowing they could contact their child – and of course that their child could make contact with them. Whilst I can totally follow the logic it makes me wonder what circumstances would an 8 year old be in that warranted a need to ‘keep in touch’. Do they now send a text message when they have forgotten their lunch?
But even if you justify a mobile phone I am at a loss to understand why children need a smartphone. Of course I can see the attraction to them and the pressure they can apply – but do they really need to surf the net? Do they require access to all the applications? Won’t a “dumbphone” meet all your safety concerns without adding more?
Cybersafety and cyberbullying are very well served by smart phones and they may provide opportunities that parents aren’t even aware of. Consider the following information about smart phones:
- They include a camera – which enables anyone to send a photo of themselves (currently called selfies) to anyone they like, either through a text message or post the photo online in many ways – Instagram, Flickr etc.
- They can take videos – these too can be distributes very easily and then stored by someone else who, in turn, can forward them onto the world wide web (which, as it states, is then available across the whole wide world).
- They are able to chat with complete strangers (one application actually shows the chat as between ‘you’ and ‘stranger’). There is no real way of knowing who you are talking to and it is possible to be persuaded to send a photograph (and receive them too).
You see a smartphone is more like a portable computer than a simple device to see if your child is OK or is ready to be picked up.
So – at what age do you give your child a mobile phone? Unless there are specific reasons I can’t see a general need for a primary school child to have a mobile phone. As for a smart phone – I would think when they are in a position to buy one / pay the monthly costs (that is, they are working and earning what is required) then would be a good time to consider it – until then ‘dumb it down’.
Do you agree? What has been your decision and experience – comment below.