Smartphones and kids. It seems to be a debated topic these days. Some parents would say that the cell phone has made their lives easier. They worry less about their kids when they are not with them and can stay connected with activities with fewer mistakes. Maybe so. Others have strong opinions against smartphones, period. So what’s the right thing to do?
I don’t want to discuss the questions here of “Are smartphones evil?” Or “Is technology bad?” because in themselves, they are not. They can be used for purposeful and extremely valuable things. But instead want to propose the question of “Are you parenting with intentionality when it comes to technology?”
Technology and smartphones have swooped in on us. The majority of us with kids that could have a cell phone didn’t even have one when we were in high school. Hello, teen land-line! We looked up our social information on the newspaper or TV or learned from a friend face to face.
The digital age came quickly, and it is continuing to change at a rapid pace. It’s no wonder that when it comes to the question of kids and technology, most of us feel a little blindsided.
With the lack of information, I think parents have experienced “herd” decision making. Where if Johnny’s parents (who we trust) said it’s fine, then it must be okay. And the decision chain continues.
Here’s the thing. We would all agree that we can’t make default choices about technology because the easy decision is to go with the flow. The cost is too high. Real dangers of smartphone use by kids include early exposure to pornography, intense cyber bullying, depression, anxiety, and device addiction, just to name a few. These problems are common and include some of the biggest fears we have for our kids.
There has been a growing movement to have children wait until they are 14 to get a cell phone. I love that idea, and you can read more about it as well as cell phone dangers here. https://www.waituntil8th.org/
We all know what exists online! When we hand a child a cell phone, regardless of the age, we are handing them a world of endless information and possibilities.
When we consider the potential harm to our kids, we could easily argue that the first year of owning a cell phone is similar to the first year of having a driver’s license. Both carry huge excitement for our kids but have the potential to cause years of harmful repercussions.
So how about looking at technology as heading up an on-ramp, similar to the process of getting a driver’s license? In other words, we provide them with years of appropriate stages of technology before we hand over a smartphone.
I think a good plan is to start slow and give them a little more technology each phase, with guidelines, information, boundaries, and a solid process for habit building along the way.
In our home, our oldest is 11 and it’s time to start thinking carefully about our on-ramp process. In other words, I am LEARNING, so please have grace as I go through what we are doing to be intentional about technology in our family. In my next few posts, I will be sharing what our smartphone on-ramp looks like as well as resources to help educate you to make wise parenting decisions when it comes to your kids and technology. Even if your child already has a smartphone it’s not too late to get more intentional about technology and our families.
HLLF – Melissa