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Kids and Smartphones: An age-by-age guide

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Published on 03/02/2022

Smartphones seem to be the one remaining battleground for parents and that parents will fight with their children over. 

In today's day and age, it's common to see toddlers wielding Ipads while being pushed around in buggies.  With covid stopping school for many children, lots of teachers turned to online education which has meant that kids are now more tech-savvy than ever before! 

 

So should parents be thinking twice before giving their kids a smartphone?   Here is our age-by-age guidelines that should have it all figured out for you!

Ages four to six

While most kids around this age have a good grasp on how to use an iPad, you should not provide them with a phone.  When it comes to screen time in general, children aged two to five should be limited to one hour a day.  The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children below the age of two shouldn’t be allowed any screen time at all.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents place constant and consistent limits on screen time for children aged six and older.  Children can very quickly become addicted to screen time with mobile devices shaping the brain to crave dopamine hits.  This “feel-good” chemical is released from the brain when it is overstimulated, which screen time and access to media provides.  Technology and access to screen time are not itself bad for children, but its overstimulation can disconnect children from their basic needs.  Look how easily children can watch episode after episode of their favourite TV show which allows you to carry out chores unpestered.  

If you do want to let your kids have access to screen time or a smartphone at this age, then you should place child locks on certain apps or websites.  YouTube and other video platforms unmonitored at this age can let children see inappropriate content without your knowledge.  So if you do let your kids have a smartphone, make sure you are monitoring their usage. 

Ages seven to nine

More and more children are getting phones as young as seven years old. While some parents want the security of being able to contact their children 24/7, the same rules should apply when it comes to access to the internet.  If you wish to give your child a phone at this age, then why not give them an old-school phone without any internet access?

When it comes to screen time, children this age should be limited to about two hours a day. 

Ages 10 to 12

While children this age should still have strict limits when it comes to phone usage, lots of parents start to introduce mobile phones at this age.  As children hit secondary school, lots of parents want to have communication channels with their kids.  

At this age, it is still sensible to provide your children with a phone that can’t access the internet.  You are giving them this device so that they can call you, it doesn’t need to provide more than that.  

A lot of issues that young children face often come from unfiltered screen time.  Being a pre-teen, young children are starting to face the social challenges that dominate this age.  Social media just causes more problems and can lead to mental health problems down the line.  

One way to tackle this is to implement parental controls and don’t use the phone as a punishment device.  Kids who fear having their phone taken away as punishment are less likely to open up to their parents about problems.   If you set up a different form of punishment, then it can help children to develop a better way of tackling screen time addiction leading to a healthier social media outlook overall.

Teenagers

When it comes to teenagers and phones, most ‘official’ recommendations say that 13 is an appropriate age for unsupervised use of smartphones and social media.  Often it is up for the parent to consider how emotionally mature their children are and whether they feel comfortable with their kid having unsupervised screen time usage.  

When it comes to screen time, the healthy amount is two hours, which could be factored in after homework.  It is always good to lead by example, so limit yourself to two hours a night as well, and act as the role model in this situation.  

Make sure you have strict policies when it comes to phones. Some rules you could implement are: No phones kept in bedrooms overnight, no phones during meal times, family get-togethers, and turned off by 8:30 pm. 

A good starting phone for young teenagers is the IMO Q4 Pro 2021.  It is a great introduction into the world of handheld tech, while it won’t break the bank.  Purely because of the price point and the fact it operates more or less, as well as the other more expensive Android phones on the market.  There is no need for long-term contracts as a device costs only £69.99.

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