Last week I wrote about my attempts to use my smartphone responsibly around my children. It makes sense to address the other side of this issue.
Though my eldest daughter is not quite ten, it has already come up. She has a running list of things that she wants to have and/or do as soon as we deem her ready. In addition to being able to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which beckons portentously from a high shelf, she would like to have a phone. It is not an urgent need, and as she is home schooled she is probably missing a lot of the social pressure she would otherwise be experiencing to be “connected.” She is only tangentially aware of Facebook, and she still thinks that her mother and I sometimes communicate telepathically when we are actually just texting. But she knows what a useful and desirable device it is, and after all we have been modeling its use for as long as she can remember.
What we decided is that when she is 16, and has earned her driver’s license (something that has not yet appeared on her list, as far as I know), she can have a phone. So we’re a ways out from this occurrence.
This leaves a lot of questions unanswered, however; among them: just how smart does her phone need to be? It used to be easier to separate the calling and texting functions from the games, apps, internet and social media. But there’s not stopping the hyperspeed evolution of technology. In fact, six years from now it will surely have developed in ways we can’t imagine. Which makes questions of limits and safety all the more important.
This article is typical in its approach to these questions, and it’s useful enough that I want to quote it at length.
“Just remember: When you hand kids phones today, you’re giving them powerful communications and production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites. They can broadcast their status and their location. They can download just about everything in the world. If you think your children’s technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, pay attention to the gap. Times may have changed, but parenting hasn’t. We’re still the parents. And it’s our job to say ‘no, not yet.'”
Our decision to wait until she is in her mid-teens is a common one, but as with most things it depends on your own child and your family’s situation. And it’s okay to experiment and make changes to the arrangement, allowing more or less access according to how safe and responsible they can be.