As technology develops, the age at which children are introduced to devices such as phones and tablets decreases every day. However, parents should take caution in letting younger children – especially those under 10 years – have their own smartphone.
Excessive screen time is harmful to young children in several ways, most notably in their development. According to a study from the National Institute of Health, nine to 10-year-old children with over two hours of screen time per day had lower scores on “thinking and language” tests. Additionally, those with over seven hours were found to have significant differences in their brains, as shown by MRI scans. With smartphones, parents are essentially giving their children unlimited access to screens.
Along with hindering development, exposure to screens – as with smartphones – also deprive children of restful sleep. The National Sleep Foundation cites that children lose an average of 26.4 minutes of sleep for every hour spent using a digital device, yet sleep is crucial for healthy brain development and for a healthy child overall.
Parents should not only factor in the harmful effects of screens on their child’s health, but also the possible social effects when deciding to give their child a smartphone. Although having a phone gives more opportunity to communicate through social media, this can often be with the wrong people. If a young child is given access to platforms like the internet, they can be too young to know how to keep themselves safe online and can often be put at risk. Supervision may be a solution to some of these issues, but parents will find that constantly looking over their child’s shoulder is more inconvenient – and unrealistic – than they bargained for. Rather than sacrificing time and energy, it makes more sense for a young child to not have access to a smartphone altogether.
hough it may seem contradictory, smartphones can negatively affect how well a person socializes. For most people, not only children, phones are often distractions in person-to-person conversations. Journal of the Association of Consumer Research finds that the mere presence of smartphones diminishes focus. For a child under 10, forming connections is critical for them to learn how to properly socialize with others – having a smartphone can hinder these connections.
Overall, smartphones can be a useful productivity tool and a gateway to instant communication with every part of the world, and it is undeniable that they are extremely useful in the lives of adults. However, when it comes to young children, there is no genuine use for these devices further than entertainment. If a parent wants to maintain contact with their child, a solid alternative would be a phone with only calling and texting capabilities, such as a flip phone. This sort of device can be highly effective in introducing children under 10 to communication over the phone, while avoiding unnecessary screen time.
Living in a constantly modernizing society does not mean that parents should feel obligated to give their young children smartphones; common sense, along with knowledge of potential harm, should dictate that decision.