This holiday season, many kids have only a single item on their wishlist: a smartphone. It's a big decision for parents. How can you be sure you're making the right one?
Microsoft moguls Bill and Melinda Gates were strict about setting tech boundaries for their children. No phones before the age of 14, they insisted. But the average Australian child has a smartphone by age 10. Does that make us bad parents? And what do the experts say?
Many argue that withholding mobile devices until kids are well into their teenage years is simply impractical today. The landscape is changing rapidly, they point out - with new, safer options available.
The advent of the world's first child-friendly smartphone, the FZ ONE - with Family Zone's acclaimed parental controls built right in - is a perfect case in point.
"The new normal"
“Young children owning smartphones is the new normal” is the conclusion of the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital, following an Australian Child Health poll that found two-thirds of primary school kids and more than a third of pre-schoolers own their own mobile device.
The ACH poll found two-thirds of primary school kids and 36% of preschoolers now own their own mobile device. As for Australian teens - if yours tells you “everyone else” has one, turns out that may literally be true. Only nine percent of Aussie children aged 14-17 do not have a smartphone, a 2016 Roy Morgan survey found.
No simple answer
So what is the right age for a child to have a smartphone? We asked Family Zone cyber expert Dr. Kristy Goodwin for a simple answer.
Turns out there isn’t one, Dr. Kristy told us. And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.
“It’s difficult to prescribe a precise chronological age when it’s safe and/or appropriate,” says Dr. Kristy. “I recommend delaying the decision until you feel your child is emotionally mature and responsible. Remember, your child may be tech savvy but they make lack the social and emotional skills required to safely use the device.
“Do they understand the permanent consequences of posting a photo online, or sending a message?”
“Giving your child a smartphone is giving them a powerful communication tool that does so much more than make and receive phone calls.”
With a phone, they can also create and receive text messages, images, and videos - “and these can be easily and quickly distributed online, screenshot or uploaded onto other websites.
“You’re also giving them a device that can access the Internet anywhere, anytime - unless you use parental controls like Family Zone which can restrict what kids can access and when devices are used.
“When you give a child a smartphone they can potentially post, or distribute embarrassing or incriminating photos/videos/ messages. Kids’ online mistakes or errors in judgement now have digital DNA attached.”
Making the call
1. Consider their emotional maturity before buying them a phone. You’re giving them a powerful tool that can do much more than take and receive phone calls.
2. Is a voice-and-text-only phone - a.k.a. a dumbphone - a better option? If they need to be in touch or if the phone is purely for safety reasons this may be your best bet.
3. Are they responsible with their other belongings?
4. Can they adhere to rules and boundaries? For example, do they know about online etiquette (eg. permission to post pictures of other people)?
5. Set up firm rules about how, what, when and where the phone can be used. A written contract that sets out your expectations, and your child's responsibilities, is the best first step. Family Zone has created a great one you can print at home. Download it here.
6. Finally, consider purchasing a smartphone with Family Zone's strong, flexible parental controls built right in familyzone.com/fz-one
There's only ONE smartphone for kids with Family Zone parental controls locked in - the FZ ONE. A sleek, feature-packed Android smartphone, the FZ ONE has all the functionality a child could ask for - with tamper-proof safety features that are second to none. To order yours in time for Christmas, or to learn more, head to familyzone.com/fz-one