Kids & Smartphones: When? Why? And Should We Wait?


Kids & Smartphones: When? Why? And Should We Wait?

by Alison Bucalo
Originally Published: 

The question will come sooner than you think. “Mom, can I get a phone? Everyone else has one!” In fact, in the United States, the average age “everyone” gets a phone is around 10 years old. Despite the fact that young minds are still growing and developing, it has been commonplace to hand over smartphones designed for adults to children.

In this episode of Live.Work.Thrive, an expert panel weighs in on the benefits of delaying the smartphone, how to know when your child is ready, and how to create a digital contract with your child. Dr. Jenny Radesky, developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, weighs in on the developmental benefits of boredom, self-regulation, and screen-free playtime.

Delaying the smartphone is familiar territory to Live.Work.Thrive host Micaela Birmingham, who chose to not to give her daughters a smartphone, despite being one of the few in their middle school still without one. In fact, one of her phoneless daughters had a babysitter mix-up and found herself lost in Manhattan after dark. As featured in her essay in the New York Times, the 11-year-old was unphased and calmly found a nearby doorman with a phone at his desk that she used to call her mom. Score one for the analog world.

We also hear from Brooke Shannon, founder and executive director of Wait Until 8th, who has started a nationwide movement of parents linking arms to delay the onset of smartphone use in their schools and communities. She even shares a tutorial on how to “strip” the unwanted apps from an iPhone so that your kid can only text and make calls. You’re welcome for skipping that trip to the Genius Bar!

With a new app or video game coming on the scene seemingly everyday, some parents find it tough to keep up, especially with apps they don’t regularly use themselves. To help us out, Common Sense Media has a wealth of resources for parents including ratings, reviews, and even tutorials on how apps work and what to watch out for. Yes, you can finally learn what the heck Discord is! Vicki Saylor from the Family and Community Education joined the Live.Work.Thrive panel to share more free resources that Common Sense Media offers.

When you are ready to dip your toe into the smartphone water, most experts have similar advice: Go slow. One mom who went viral a few years back for the iPhone contract she created for her son has since become an international speaker and media expert. Hear what Janell Burley Hoffman had to say on Live.Work.Thrive about where to start when thinking about your child’s tech habits.

Childhood is short; the smartphone social media learning curve is long. Stay informed, slow down, and be the one they come to when things don’t go as planned. With you and your child on the same team, they will live, work, and thrive.

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