When to give your child a phone

8:16 AM

 


There comes that time in a parent's life at which you start asking yourself certain questions like "What bedtime should I set for my child" or "When can they go play in the park down the building without me around". 
To be fair, the moment you make the transition from single individual to an individual who's in charge of the wellbeing of a tiny human being, you start wondering when and how you should do certain things: first solids, schooling, screen time, play time...The list goes on and on. 
Then, you reach a point at which the unavoidable question will pop : 

When to get my child their own phone? 

We live in a technologic world, what we grew up without is now an essential communication tool and having your own phone is a big rite of passage. 

I have friends and family abroad who have given a phone to their kids as young as 9-10 years old, in places where kids do have more independence early, it makes loads of sense. After all, back in Switzerland, it was, and I think it still is common to see 10 years old kids taking public transport all alone. 
When I was a kid, I had a Pay Phone card in my wallet to call home if I needed help while I was out. The equivalent nowadays would be to have a phone. 

But phones nowadays also do a lot more than making calls, and it raise a whole bunch of safety issues as well. So it's a very loaded 


Ironically, I was discussing it with a friend back in January, our girls were nearing the age of 11 and we were wondering how much longer we could go without having to get them their own phone. At their age, they start spending more time with their friends without parents around, and I myself regularly found myself calling all the other mom's to see at which friend's home she decided to head to after playing outdoors. 

Back then, I remember telling my friend that I was hoping to at least have another year before coming to that decision. 12 years old seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Then, the pandemic and lockdown happened

Kids with nowhere to go and no friends to see turned to their parents' phones to keep contact with their own social circles. 
For a while, my own WhatsApp only beeped and bleeped for my daughter. All her friends had requisitioned their parent's handsets and created a million groups to chat. My phone's storage got clogged with 5-600 messages and gifs and audio files that I needed to delete daily. 

As the weeks in isolation passed, many other parents fished out old phones they didn't use anymore out of storage to give their kids, and I feared the days I would have to get her a phone of her own came nearer and nearer.

I finally crossed that bridge last month, fed up to be my daughter's personal assistant, being woken up in the middle of a nap by a video call, and planning my entire day of work around which device I had when. 
Laptop gone all morning for the sake of online classes, and phone out of my control all afternoon long. When you are an artist needing to do creative work and self-promotion on social media, this crazy game of "Musical Device" switcharoo wears really thin after a while.

My own phone was a nearly 3 years old iPhone 6s with storage that was already a bit short without my daughter's usage, so I figured out I could need an upgrade for myself and my professional needs anyway. I decided to get myself a new phone, and did like every other parents : give my old one to my kiddo.

So, I got myself a new phone, if you were wondering, I got myself the iPhone XR (this is an affiliate link by the way) and gave away my old phone and all the cute cases that go with it to my over the moon daughter. 

Safety matters

When you give your child their first phone, a lot of concerns pop. The biggest one being keeping them safe on the internet and with social media, as well as monitoring their screen time.

I can't speak for Android, we are an Apple household, and Apple has a family circle feature that links all the users belonging to the same family together. It also prevents minors from creating their own Apple ID without permission. The family's "organizer" has to create it from their own device before activating it on their kid's phone. 
Along with that, the organizer can set screen time limits on individual apps and a separate master screen time on the phone itself. Our daughter's one is unusable after 9pm and until 7am, and several apps have a time restriction as well. 
Then, any parent/guardian in the family circle is notified when the child try to download a new app. Because we pretty much have the full Apple ecosystem, the notifications pop up no matter which device I use, this prevents kids from downloading questionable content behind their parent's back.

We also set up some ground rules regarding the phone : 

- Not allowed to use in the bedroom
- No showing it off to people in the playground
- If taken to the playground, it must remain on her person the whole time
- Not allowed to keep it on silent, when out, the phone must be heard and answered every time we call. 
- Doing chores before using the phone to chat or play
- Not changing the password on the screen lock and accepting both hubby and I have a right to see what is going on in her chat session if we suspect something is wrong. 
- No social media account creation (we can reject the download of those apps anyway)

We made sure she understand why those rules exist, and that having a phone is a big responsibility, not living up to said responsibility could get the phone confiscated for a while.

So far so good, she is acting ver responsible with said phone and even borrowed my power bank before heading to a friend's place the other day because she wasn't sure if the battery would last long enough while she was out. 

For us, the lockdown and lack of real life social interaction is what motivated our decision to get her a phone of her own. I have a feeling that if this year didn't push us out of normalcy, I would have gone at least an extra year without getting to that decision.


 

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2 comments

  1. My son used his mother's phone as it is readily available. He had downloaded a few games all by himself, god knows how which he plays. Most often he watches arts, craft and musical videos. He is interested in arts and music. He has a speech problem so all his interactions are limited to school. We do not have to worry about the WhatsApp business. What is amazing is the ability of the children to explore technology and find out things. Till now, he is watching random videos of art or his favourite songs, but I do fear sometimes if he stumbles onto something inappropriate. So I keep on checking what he watches. The phone has become such an integral part of life that children just took the cue from us and hooked on yo them.

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    1. Yeah Ishita used to take mine, but it really got in the way of me using it for myself as it's one of my work tool.

      She mostly chats with her friends, for video watching she uses my old iPad which is still set up with my ID and YouTube is linked to my Google ID on that iPad, so I can see what she watched in the history from any device at any time, so far she hasn't stumbled on inappropriate content.

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