It is safe to say that this topic is conversed amongst many adults of our nation in today’s’ day and age. Wherever you go, you’re bound to hear someone say something along the lines of, “Every kid has their face in a phone all the time!” at least once. Most people have conflicting opinions on the matter. Some parents, like I’ve just indicated, are against it. Others think it’s an efficient way to keep their children distracted and occupied while they take care of their parental-duties. Come to find out, there has been extensive research done on both the harmful and beneficial aspects of children being so tech-savvy at such a young age.
Some sources say that the exposure to smartphones at such ripe ages can cause psychological trauma to children. In the article “How Do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology” by Amy Williams, she points out how influential Jean Piaget was in the study of developmental psychology and one of his major principles related to the topic. Williams writes, “Children need to experience the world around them to accommodate new ideas.
Children ‘construct an understanding of the world around them’ and try to understand new ideas based on what they already know and discover.” With this statement, Williams is indicating that children must learn and conceptualize new ideas by experiencing them in everyday real life, rather than through a bright lighted screen. She says that “face-to-face interactions” are the most important factor in children’s learning process.
Her article also mentions how Dr. Jenny Radetzky of Boston Medical Center blames over-usage of smartphones creates distance between parents and their kids. Williams expresses how the frontal and temporal lobe of our brains are still in fragile development in adolescence and can be put in harm’s way when over-exposed to radio frequencies emitted from cell phones.
Not only can physical damage be a factor, but Williams also says that children who depend on communicating with peers through a screen can eventually weaken their people and social skills once encountered in person.
According to research firm Influence Central, children are on average getting their first smartphones around age ten. While some believe this is far too young, James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media says that “no two kids are the same,” and that each child reaches different levels of maturity and responsibility at different ages. Therefore, we shouldn’t set a strict belief on specific age that children should be allowed to own smartphones.
One mediating proposal is that children should be allowed to have phones, but not with all the bells and whistles. Perhaps young children should have older versions of cell phones that are only capable of sending texts and making calls. This can shelter them from some disturbing things that can be stumbled upon owning a smart phone.
Author of the book “The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket”, Ms. Weinberger, stated some very upsetting data after surveying 70,000 children. She found that on average, children began sexting in fifth grade, began consuming pornography online at age 8, and became addicted to pornography by age 11. She believes that when children of these young ages have the internet in their pocket all day long, this content is easier to come by, and a lot more frequent and tempting.
On the other end, a lot of people are in favor of letting their children own smartphones at a young age and believe that there can be many beneficial aspects that the child may gain from this. Laura Lewis Brown, author of the article When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet, states that these electronic tools can give children “another dimension of learning.”
Brown argues that children can become more engaged in what they are learning via unconventional strategies- apps with bright colors, sounds, and interactions. Compared to the old-school textbook and paper flashcards, children may have a chance to gain more interest in the material they are learning, as well as have some fun.
Another author who sees benefits in allowing children to have a smart phone is Reese Jones, a blogger for eduPad. She mentions many reasons as to why she sees this issue as a positive thing, including Brown’s reasoning for engaging kids in their schoolwork.
Another pro she states is that children can easily contact their parents when they need to, and also have their own handheld GPS in their pocket. On most smartphones, if we are ever lost, we can simply ask “Where am I?” and it will tell us. Children can also set their home address as “home,” and ask the phone if they are lost, “Show me how to get home.” This can be very beneficial for kids, as long as their parents teach them how to use it when they first get the phone.
After reading into this topic more through various articles, I firmly stick with my original belief, young children should not own smartphones. Being an adult, I much too often see things on the internet every day that deeply disturb me deeply. I don’t believe it is right for children to accidentally stumble on things that they haven’t even learned about or been exposed to yet. Observing children that I know, such as my younger siblings and their friends, I believe that children are growing up too quickly.
I also believe that the internet has a lot to do with this. When young kids overheard adults talking about something that was mysterious to them, like sex, a long time ago, most children wouldn’t go and look up in a book the correct explanation for what it was. They would talk to their friends, who would talk to their friends, and rumors and tall tales about the subject would be spread.
It is far too easy for children to tap a couple of buttons on a phone and see some very explicit material. Things like sex, I believe, children should learn about from their parents or from their classroom.
Looking back at my childhood, my generation was the very edge of the technology explosion, I did not have phones growing up but children who were five years younger than me did. My most cherished memories were playing outside, getting dirty, and most importantly, exploration and adventure. I feel as if children who are addicted to smartphones lose this sense of curiosity and adventure, which in my opinion, defines childhood itself.
- Chen, Brian X. “What’s the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?” The New York Times. N.p., 20 July 2016. Web. <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/technology/personaltech/whats-the-right-age-to-give-a-child-a-smartphone.html?_r=0>.
- Brown, Laura Lewis. “When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/article-when-introduce-child-smartphone-tablet.html>.
- Williams, Amy. “How Do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology?” Psych Central. N.p., 17 July 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-do-smartphones-affect-childhood-psychology/>.
- Jones, Reese. “5 Benefits of Giving Your Kids a Smartphone.” EduPad. N.p., 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.edupad.com/blog/2013/11/5-benefits-giving-kids-smartphone/>.