53 out of 100 American 7-year-olds have personal cell phones. Add gaming consoles, iPads, TVs, and handheld gaming devices, and it’s no wonder that your child wants an iPhone because “everyone else has one.”
In the preschool years, parents were easily able to supervise their children’s electronic use. But now their child is spending increasing amounts of time away from home: full days at school, hanging out at friends’ houses and sleeping over, and even walking alone to school or to the library.
Parents are torn. They know the potential dangers of excessive or inappropriate use of electronics. They may doubt that their children are ready to take on that responsibility. And they don’t want to give into their child’s pleas just because of peer pressure.
But parents also know there can also be real benefits. So, let’s examine in more detail the pros and cons of giving a child electronic devices for personal use.
Pros and Cons
Of course, not all electronics are equal. They have different capabilities, which translates to different risks. If you are thinking about giving your child a personal electronic device, you need to educate yourself about the available options, and consider which may be the most appropriate for your particular child.
Handheld gaming devices
These are not as popular as they used to be, because as their name suggests, they have only one purpose: gaming. Higher tech gaming devices can also access the internet, allowing children to connect remotely with other people to play games together; however, they don’t have internet browsing or phone abilities.
What are some reasons a parent might give such a device to a child?
Learning responsibility is a big factor. At this age, a child can better comprehend value. If they do not take care of their belongings, there are consequences – and some parents make sure their children feel the pain of carelessness by covering the cost. The responsibility that comes with ownership is an essential life skill for every child to learn.
If the device has wireless capabilities, a parent may also encourage supervised social connections, especially if the child seems to be struggling in other social capacities. Electronic social connection can develop language, typing, and social skills. The lack of internet browsing ability can help parents feel safer about their child’s activity on the device.
You may choose to give your child a basic cell phone. As your child is spending more time away from home in a world with increasing crime rates, you may want your child to be able to contact you – or 911 – in any situation.
A basic cell phone, without the ability to connect to the internet or download apps, is an effective way to restrict a child’s electronic activities.
The level of responsibility required for a cell phone is even greater than that of a gaming device:
Parents may inflict consequences on a child who fails to respond to phone calls or texts from the parent.
The child needs to be aware of leaving the phone in places where it might be stolen.
He must keep it from being damaged, keep it accessible, and keep it charged.
For these reasons, some children may not be ready for the responsibility of a cell phone, as misuse could become very expensive for their parents. But the fact remains: If the child is able to handle the responsibility, he will be learning a valuable life skill.
Smartphones allow users to text and call anyone, download and purchase apps, browse the internet, access chatrooms, and play games. You can use the SpyBubble app to monitor and control your child’s smartphone. The versatility of these devices opens up a world of potential dangers for children who have unsupervised access to them. iPads have the same internet features, without the calling/texting ability.