By Zunammie Keren
When I was a child there was no such thing as a mobile phone. We had one of those old rotary landline telephones where you had to stick your finger into a little hole and spin all the way around just to dial one number. Back then the rules were pretty clear – I could use the phone only after I completed my homework and only for periods of 5 minutes or less at a time (phone bills were very pricey back then and we had no unlimited plans).
Fast forward to today when I am a mother in a world with a gazillion mobile phones and the rules are not so clear. My 3 boys are all under 5 years old and already I am starting to wonder – at what age should I give them mobile phones? They are certainly quite enthralled with MY mobile and I have to actually hide it when I am in a room with them, as they seem to think of it as their personal Youtube watching device. My first-born son is 4 years old and he goes to preschool so I could give him a phone for safety reasons but at what age should I do this?
Age Is Just A Number
I don’t believe that anyone can tell you the specific age when you should give your child a mobile. As anyone who has spent time with kids of various ages can tell you, children of the same age can have vastly different behaviors. One seven year old may use a mobile responsibly and only when it is absolutely necessary while another could easily become addicted to texting or playing games.
Maturity and Responsibility
If age is not the determining factor then what should be? Essentially when your child starts to display the ability to act responsibly you can start thinking about giving them a mobile. Responsible and mature behaviors are good indicators that your child is ready to have a mobile. Age should also be considered but it should by no means be the only factor.
Safety and Security
Perhaps the number one reason parents give mobiles to young children is for improved safety. We just want to know that our kids can make a call for help if they are ever in a dangerous situation. If your kids are old and mature enough to use public transportation by themselves then they may just be ready to have their own mobile. If they carpool and are constantly in the presence of responsible adults then they will not need to have a mobile just yet. You have to use your own judgment to decide if having a mobile will really make your child safer.
As communication tools mobiles are wonderful instruments but they also have the potential to cause harm to our children. They are known to emit harmful radiation, they can be distracting for adults and children alike and it is possible that they can interrupt your child’s sleeping patterns. All these things considered, waiting as long as possible before giving your child a mobile seems to be a very wise idea.
OK my kids are definitely too young to have their own mobiles. They are just not old or mature enough as yet. When I feel that they are ready to handle the responsibility of owning a mobile then they will get one. Until then I will continue to hide my mobile from them and encourage them to use tablets as computers for their YouTube watching activities.
Taken from the July issue of Geek Parenting, out now!