There’s no point denying it - every parent has, in a moment of frustration, handed their child a smartphone or tablet in order to keep their child momentarily entertained while they accomplish something. It’s completely understandable. There’s no denying smart devices capture our children’s attention and keep them sufficiently calm for long enough periods of time to allow us to get our daily tasks accomplished without constant interruption. Every parent needs that sometime.
But how much is too much, and how damaging is any smartphone time at all to your growing child? Experts have long recommended that children get no contact whatsoever with screens until at least the age of 2, although the American Academy of Pediatrics has softened its stance in recent years.
It’s safe to say that most parents are giving in and letting their children use their smartphones on occasion. One survey says 70 percent of kids under 12 in a household with a tablet are allowed to use the device. And the younger the parents are, the more likely they are to let their kids have access to their devices.
But just because smartphones, tablets and other internet-connected devices have become ubiquitous among children doesn’t mean they’re harmless. What happens to a generation of kids raised on smartphones?
The consequences of smartphone access
There’s lots of evidence to suggest that kids with lots of access to smartphones in their developing years are stunted in development, both mentally and emotionally. Access to social media in particular has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety, and screen use in general is linked to inactivity and low self esteem. Kids born in the post-millennial generation - 1995 and later - grew up with internet access at their fingertips. They report skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
And studies also show that very few kids manage to effectively control their screen time. Instead, the majority report spending more than four hours a day on it. Nearly 8 in 10 teens check their phone at least once per hour. Teachers are reporting difficulty getting their students to put phones down and pay attention during class, and often report that taking phones away from students feels like taking drugs away from addicts.
Students who are thoroughly addicted to their phones struggle to pay attention in class and retain information because they’re constantly multi-tasking or completely distracted by their phones. Attempts to incorporate smartphones into classrooms have had success in the past, especially in Toronto where seo toronto companies have normalized their use, but not all schools have adopted that policy, and students faced with a no-screen policy often struggle to follow the rule.
Even for younger children there are concerns. Just recently YouTube had to deal with widespread backlash after several articles drew attention to bizarre, even traumatic content disguised as harmless children’s videos populating the kid’s section of the video site.
What constitutes safe access?
It’s obviously difficult to draw a line in the sand when it comes to smartphone usage. These devices are ubiquitous, and chances are they will only become more popular as time goes on. Very few parents have success maintaining a no-screens-allowed policy for very long. Rather than adopting a no tolerance policy when it comes to smart devices, the best bet for keeping your child safe is monitoring their behavior on devices to make sure they don’t do anything wrong.
Some level of care in what your child is doing on their smartphone is necessary to keep them safe. You don’t necessarily have to read through their texts and emails, but you can install parental filters and monitors to see what apps your children are using and prevent them from accessing mature or unsafe content remotely. And when your child is using their phone in front of you, ask what they’re doing and listen to what’s going on. Engage with them about their activity so they know you care. Chances are you won’t keep a smartphone out of your child’s hand forever. Instead of a blanket ban, work on developing boundaries, appropriate restrictions and an understanding of the appropriate uses of a phone or tablet.