To give or not to give! This is perhaps one of the biggest puzzles most parents have to deal with in the 21st Century. None is particularly sure about the right time to get mobile phones for kids. Or if at all they should purchase these little shiny pieces in the first place.
But again, does the question even make sense? The current Generation Alpha and Z kids are born straight into technology the moment they pop out of the womb. It is all they know even as they grow up. Soon, it molds into a lifestyle, which grows to adulthood.
Notwithstanding which side of the debate is agreeable, the fact is, children in the 21st Century simply cannot do without smartphones and the whole array of tech devices. It is their life, moment and era. At birth, they come face to face with smartphone and tablet flashes even before they notice their mothers! When finally their eyes start seeing for real, they realize everyone around them is busy on phones.
At 3 months and above, they notice this happens repeatedly. Curiosity gets the better of them and the obligation to do the same kicks in. When the chance presents itself, they will place the phone next to their ears and smile broadly! The smile is captivating and pleasing to us. As much as we want to grab the phone away from them, somehow we relent.
Eventually, it becomes the norm. It kickstarts the curation of true digital natives. They learn to interact with these and other tech forms more than they do everyone else around them. The attachment will not stop unless and perhaps one day, a calamitous solar event strikes the universe to render tech advancement invalid. Just kidding!
Still, how on earth does anyone tell these adventurous fellows to stay off these shiny little devices? To make matters worse, parents use smartphones and tablets as baits to make them accomplish domestic chores. To which they oblige. Instead of saying NO to a child who is over-indulging in a computer game, we promise them more screen time if only they do dishes. This eventually becomes a routine.
While it is true strict parents exist, who want to curb this progression, it is also questionable how achievable the approach is. It is like going to war with the ubiquitous nature of these devices at home. They are available with the older siblings, neighbors, peers, friends etc. The older folks feel indebted to the new member in the family, whose interest in tech is hard to ignore.
We also cannot hide smart phones from them. Maybe by keeping them in the pocket. But alas! health experts tell us not to, due to proximity to sensitive body organs. Do we lock them in the drawers? Of course, the meaning of mobile will cease to exist, as we may not even hear them ringing. This will interfere with our ability to communicate. So, they stay in the open where the kids readily access them!
Technology and its contraptions are not going anywhere anytime soon. Both parents and kids must learn to live with this reality. In any case, kids who learn to use these devices early in life tend to outgrow them early enough. Kids need these tools as much as parents need them.
They need to,
- make phone calls to us, siblings and friends
- play games
- master tech-related knowledge early enough so as not to be left behind
Make Mobile Usability Safe
It is incumbent upon us to implement informed parenting routines to fend off the dangers or no dangers that come with tech. The challenge is to make usability smart and safe. What to do? We should be focusing on controlling and neutralizing the bad side effects instead of investing energy on all the wrong things. For a start, children need to be made aware that radiation from cell phones and other EMF emitting contraptions is not necessarily good for them. These devices are smuggled into our lives and will always remain artificial.
- be aware of EMF-related effects
- not use phones for extended periods
- make very few calls
- not place the phone close to the body, in the pocket or in bed
- use handsfree devices
- text/chat more than talking
- balance between screen time and other activities, chores and, education
- restrain from addiction
It is all about controlling how they use smartphones so as not to compromise their well-being.