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Article 3 (Mar 2018): When to give a child a smartphone

March 28, 2018
Parents in modern society are struggling with the answer to when or if they should let their children have a smartphone.  Recent research from Influence Central shows that the average age in the U.S. is now only 10 years old.  This age is down from age 12 just five years ago.  Prevailing theories for this trend is the fact that parents are already letting children play with their smartphones and are getting tired of sharing, which suggests that the kids have access at an even earlier age.
Despite this trend, other research from Common Sense Media has shown that 50 percent of children with smartphones admitted they might be addicted to them, and more than half agreed with their parents that they used the devices for too long.  In these cases, it is clear that having a smartphone is creating problems among children and The New York Times explains that they often lead to distractions from schoolwork, family time, and other face-to-face social interactions.
Problems stemming from smartphone use do not take long to rise to the surface, and many parents have decided that it is better to wait as long as possible before handing the devices over so that kids can learn self-control and responsibility before opening the door to an always-on society.  It should be noted that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls impulses, doesn't finish developing until the mid-20s and exposure to these devices could lead to issues with impulse control later on.
Still, the pull of smartphones is relentless, and their saturation in society means that those left without can suffer from a fear of missing out on what is going on with their friends.  A recent report from the Pew Research Institute has shown that nearly three-quarters of teens have access to a smartphone as of 2015 and many parents likely have a difficult time keeping their children away from their social circles that have since moved into the online space.
Parents that want to delay giving children smartphones do have some options such as giving them 'dumb' phones that have only talk and text capabilities.  This allows them to connect with their friends while avoiding the games, internet access, and other distractions that come with smartphones.  If that's going too far, there are also smartwatches that allow kids to make calls to a few select people along with messaging.
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