Should children really have smartphones?

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Caroline Donnelley, staff writer

How young is too young to give your child a smartphone? This is a question that many new parents are asking themselves. Studies have shown that nearly 75 percent of children in the US receive a phone by the time they turn 12 and a half, and nearly all children have a phone by 15. These numbers have drastically risen in the past few years with the rise of smartphones.

Most parents’ top priority is their children’s safety, and believe giving them a smartphone will make them easy to track at all times. Although it sounds like a good parenting move to give a child a phone once they get into middle school, in many cases, it leads to a screen-addicted child who gains no independence.

Growing up without a smartphone was one of the best decisions my parents made for me because it forced me to gain independence and learn from my own mistakes in situations where my parents were not close by. In addition, not having a smartphone helped me gain self-awareness and a higher attention span and has made me realize how important it is not to live online. 

I biked nearly four miles to and from school every day from sixth to eighth grade. During this time, I had no contact with any adults and was forced to learn smart decisions to keep myself safe. These skills I was forced to learn from something as little as a bike ride will stick with me my entire life and, with this, have already made me less reliant on my parents. 

In addition to taking away children’s independence, studies have shown smartphones and smart devices as a whole have drastically lowered children’s attention span. According to a study in Canada, the average attention span across the board has decreased from twelve to eight seconds since the year 2000.

The abundance of information thrown at children gives them a never-ending hole to dig into, which allows them to scroll aimlessly for hours. Constant digital stimulation from notifications and pop-ups has left kids connected at all times, leaving no attention for anything else. 

“Almost overnight, everyone over the age of 10 had some sort of social media and, with this, hundreds of new “friends. ”

Children have had a history of low levels of patience and attention, and smartphones have only added to this. It is getting to the point where children and teens can’t put their phones down for a few minutes to finish a simple homework assignment or even play with their friends.

With no attention span, children can’t develop important social skills needed for their day-to-day lives. With no social skills, there will be a whole generation of people who are socially awkward, shy, and intimidated to be in basic social situations. 

Depression

Studies have shown that there is a direct link between social media and depression.  No other generations were forced to deal with this new form of media in their youth. Almost overnight, everyone over the age of 10 had some sort of social media and, with this, hundreds of new “friends.” 

This relatively new phenomenon has increased depression and self-esteem, especially in younger girls who compare themselves to images of others. This idea of always comparing yourself to perfectly curated photos of people is extremely unhealthy and should be an issue that is more focused on.

A 2017 study of more than half a million high school students in the United States revealed that high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between the years 2010 and 2015. Within this group, the suicide rate of girls increased by 65 percent during the time period. 

The internet connects anyone to everyone, leading to increased digital connectivity between people and a decrease in real-life connections. Many people would agree with the fact that a virtual connection is nothing like real life.

Children learn to form relationships with their families and peers early. This is just one of the many reasons why taking that ability away from them can be extremely harmful to their well-being throughout their entire life. 

It’s important to teach children to form important relationships because, without them, they could find themselves in countless situations where they have no one to lean on or talk to, leading to loneliness and depression.

So when should children receive a phone? 

There is no perfect age to give a child a phone because chances are it will do more harm than good no matter when they receive it. With this in mind, we live in an age where nearly everyone uses some form of internet technology in their everyday lives. 

Children should be given a phone when they truly are aware and understanding of the technology and how it is affecting them. I got my first phone the summer going into high school. By this time, I felt I was mature enough to use responsibly and knew I did not want it to take over my life. 

I was able to enjoy my childhood without the pressures of comparing myself to others and having to be connected to the world all the time. It is easy for me, a high school student, to tell parents how to parent their children however, not having a smartphone until high school was one of the most beneficial things my parents have done for me.