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Why I’m considering buying my 6-year old a smart phone for Christmas

Is 6-years old to young for a smart phone? The gut reaction is ‘damn right it’s too young’, ‘what do they need it for’. Well let’s face it most children don’t need a phone, like they don’t need an Xbox One X, but it is what they desire.

So why does my daughter want a phone?

When I asked her, she said, ‘well I’d like it as my alarm clock like you and Daddy’. I don’t know about you, but my phone is like my digital swiss army knife. It’s my alarm clock, my calculator, my diary, camera, shopping list, note book, personal shopper, TV, newspaper, Walkman, watch, map, the list goes on. And every kid I’ve ever met believes they’re older and more mature than their actual age. Therefore, she views a smart phone as a coming of age, an essential component on the path to becoming a young adult. A bit like how a toddler might like to play dress-up in their Mum’s high-heels or Dad’s work tie.

What age is the right age to own your first smart phone?

Should I make my decision based on age? Or whether her friends have their own phone? Perhaps maturity, does she understand how to use a smart phone responsibly?

Most parents I speak to use the following formula [keep saying no, until they go to secondary school and must get the bus/walk on their own = then they’ll need a phone for their own safety].

Here the decision seems to be based on our own self-gratification. As parents we want to be constantly connected to our children. The last thing our child wants the phone for is to stay connected with us!

As parents we might feel justified in our decision-making process, but is this really the right criteria to base our decision on? And more importantly does it prepare our child for the best and the worst the internet has to offer?

How can we prepare our children for the best and the worst the internet has to offer?

  • We can talk about the dangers rather than instilling fear – sharing horror stories is tempting. But that doesn’t give our children any practical methods to deal with a difficult situation.
    When we teach our child to cross the road, we go further than the horror stories. We take time to show them the road. We explain how each road junction can be different. We hold their hand as they cross. We ask them to practice under our guidance. We make sure they have the skills they need before we let them cross alone.
  • We can talk about practical techniques in addition to applying parental controls – parental controls have a place, but they shouldn’t be used in isolation. Even as adults we want to eat the forbidden fruit, and children will find a way of bypassing controls if they don’t understand why they are being applied.
    Sitting down and talking about the best ways to protect yourself might yield some surprising results, you could talk about:

    • Privacy filters
    • Bullying
    • Setting passwords
    • When to walk away
  • We can set an example – just like toddlers dressing up in heels/ties it is parents who children look to emulate. If we project a reliance on smart devices, then no wonder they are top of our children’s Christmas lists. Let’s take this opportunity to show our children sensible, safe and responsible ways of integrating technology into their lives.

For your employees

At this time of year many parents will be asking themselves the same question, is my child too young to have their own smart phone? To help people make that decision, and guide their child once they have, we have prepared a provoking thought piece – KEEPING OUR KIDS SAFE How can we prepare young people for the worst of the internet, without limiting their enjoyment of the best it can offer? Which can be downloaded and shared with your staff on our resources page.

Will I buy the smart phone?

You’ll be pleased to know that my daughter will not be getting a smart phone this Christmas. But when I do decide I hope I will be brave enough to base my decision on her capability of understanding the best and the worst of what the internet has to offer.

Now it’s your turn, so we can learn from our collective experiences please share your ideas regarding how you would decide the right time to buy your child’s first smart phone.

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