Editorial Contest: When should my kid have a phone? – An iconic dilemma

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For The Lansing Journal’s first-ever editorial contest, we partnered with the freshmen class at Unity Christian Academy. Every student in the 26-student class wrote an editorial about something they care about, and submitted them to The Lansing Journal. Publisher Melanie Jongsma and Managing Editor Josh Bootsma read the editorials and picked four winners and one honorable mention based on criteria including: making a claim, persuasion and analysis, evidence, local impact, and language and voice. Winners will be published daily starting April 25, 2022.


By Timothy Purnell

Deciding when your child can receive their first smartphone can be a difficult decision, though I believe that every child should have a phone by 13. Whether or not they should get one early depends on how well your child can take care of their things, and what activities they participate in. Their social life should influence your decision as well.

Responsibility

Some kids are more responsible with their stuff than others, and this is something to take into consideration when deciding whether your kid can get a phone yet. In an article written by Danielle Cohen, titled, “When Should You Get Your Kid a Phone,” Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist and anxiety expert at the Child Mind Institute, wanted parents to keep these issues in mind if they were to buy their kid a phone. They might easily lose or break things. Would they be trustworthy with money, or purchase random apps or make in-app purchases? If you give them access to social media, will they expose themselves to mature ideas, or post things that you’re uncomfortable with? These are all questions that you can ask yourself about your child to see if they’re mature enough yet.

Safety

There are some situations where it might just be safer to buy your child a phone if they’re out of the house a lot. I know a big reason I received a phone at 11 years old was that I was involved with sports after school. My parents wanted me to have a way to contact them in case anything unexpected happened. Though our community is safe, there’s always that slim chance something may happen while a parent isn’t there. If your child is away from home a decent amount, giving them a phone to call you if something happens might be a good idea.

Though you may not want to give them a smartphone just to call you. Smartphones allow access to the internet, which your child might not be responsible enough to use yet. In this case, other alternative devices can only call or text, such as smartwatches.

Communication needs

With all of these different factors in mind, there isn’t a minimum age when a kid can get a smartphone, but there is a maximum. A kid should have a smartphone before they graduate from middle school. This will allow them to keep in contact with their friends if they have smartphones. When I was in middle school, I had very chatty friends who were always texting each other. If I didn’t have a phone by then, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in any of those conversations. I still keep in touch with some to this day, which would be almost impossible without a way to contact them. Smartwatches are limited in their communication abilities by not being able to use social media. Friendships from middle school can easily disappear if the friends don’t keep in contact with each other.

A parent’s role

There’s also a role that you play when you get your child a phone. You’re in charge of monitoring their smartphone activity and limiting their usage. Cathay Habas, author of the article “What Age Should Kids Get a Phone?” wrote, “Without guidance from you, they’re at significant risk of smartphone addiction. Side effects include poor sleep, poor academic performance, strained parent/child relationships, and increased anxiety/depression.” If you decide to get your child a smartphone at a younger age, make sure to watch them carefully.

Smartphones are useful tools, but also very dangerous. They can keep you safe while also being hazards. Deciding when a kid should receive their first smartphone can be a difficult task, one that would be much simpler if there was a set age for every kid to get one. However, it’s a decision that a parent must make based on many factors. It requires knowing your child, what they do and don’t do. It even requires a little knowledge of their school life and what friends they have. Here’s hoping the decision can be made easier knowing all of these ideas that need to be kept in mind.

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