What age should children be allowed to have cell phones?

It is not uncommon for children at primary school level to have cell phones, but research from 2016 shows that the average age for a child to have their first phone is 10.3 years old, although many parents wait until their child starts secondary school at the age of 11 or 12. Not long ago, many parents wondered at what age they should give their child full access to the car keys. Nowadays, parents face a trickier question: At what age should a child own a smartphone? The smartphone, after all, is the key to unfettered access to the internet and the many benefits and dangers that come with it. But unlike driving a car, which is legal in some states starting at the age of 16, there is no legal guideline for a parent to determine when a child may be ready for a smartphone. The topic is being increasingly debated as children get smartphones at an ever younger age. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. For some children, smartphone ownership starts even sooner — including second graders as young as 7, according to internet safety experts.
Questions To Ask When Considering Phone Use: Your child will probably be technologically savvy enough to own a phone, but will they have the maturity to use it wisely.Here are some questions to consider:

• Does your child have a sense of responsibility? For example, do they show up on time and keep you informed about their movements?
• Do they tend to lose things easily?
• Could you trust them not to use their phones in class?
• Would they adhere to limits for the time they can spend on their phones and the apps they can download?
• Can you trust them not to use their phones to bully or harass others?
• Do they need to be in touch for safety reasons?
The right age to give kids their first cellphone is really up to you. Age isn’t as important as your kid’s maturity level, ability to follow home (and schools’) rules, their sense of responsibility, and your own family’s needs. Getting your kid their first phone is a very personal and individual decision, but lots of kids start asking for them (and receiving them) as early as elementary school. That kind of peer pressure makes it tougher for parents who want to hold off delay the inevitable, but stand firm! When you provide your children cellphones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.
How Can You Make Sure They Use It Safely?
1. Safety Reasons
Do you need to be in touch with your child since he/she has no one to accompany him/her to the school or his/her various co-curricular activity classes? If the answer is a “yes”, then you may have to get one for her for safety reasons.
2. Purpose
Is an ordinary phone not enough to serve the purpose? If you want her to keep a mobile just for calling and informing purpose, then just an ordinary phone is good enough. However, if he/she requires one for other reasons like using social media or browsing the net etc., then a low-tech phone will not suffice.
3. Caring for Things
Does your child care about her things or is he/she careless and keeps on losing things? If you feel that your child is too careless with her things and loses things on and off, then having him/her ‘make do’ with an ordinary phone will be a wise move.
4. Responsibility
Will your child use the mobile responsibly and not keep indulging in it even during school hours and study time? Before giving a cell phone to her, make sure you read out the rules to her. You should make it clear that being on the phone at all times will not be allowed and she may even have to give away her phone as a punishment.
5. Concern for Others
Will your child be responsible enough to use a cell phone only for communication purposes and not to disturb or distract others? Tell your child that calling people and disturbing them at odd hours is not acceptable.
6. Internet Safety
Will your child be able to distinguish between the right and the wrong content on the internet? Now, this could be tricky. Your child may not be at the age to understand the difference between right or wrong content. However, you have to sit him/her down and tell him/her the difference and what he/ she is not allowed to view.
7. Economic Viability
Will it be economically viable for you to get a smartphone for your child? After all, the economics does not end with the buying the phone. After you hand over the smartphone, inform your child about the monthly expenses that come with it. You may give her a fixed budget in which he/she would have to make do with his/her phone bills. In case he/she exceeds the limit, you could deduct it from her pocket money. If you decide having a mobile phone would be beneficial to your child then there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risks they face. For example, putting a password on the phone’s app store will prevent them from installing apps without your knowledge. If they do want to install a new app then you should research it first to make sure it’s appropriate. There are also parental controls you can put on children’s handsets to prevent them from visiting inappropriate sites and keep them from sending texts or making calls to unknown numbers. Perhaps most important of all is to have a conversation with the child outlining exactly what they can and can’t do on their phone and why. They should also understand that nothing is private online.
(The author a teacher by profession is presently working at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)bhat.hilalahmad32@gmail.com

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