Parenting Tips

An age-by-age guide for children and smartphones

In our modern, screen-saturated world, are you worried about your child, shunting out the reality and immersing in the digital world? Embrace the technology, use parental controls to provide them a sheltered cocoon.

Children are born mimics, no doubt! Parents being embarrassed when a child repeats their favorite unutterable words in public is a common sight! So basically, the responsibility to raise a ‘screen-smart adult’ falls upon parents’ shoulders.

According to Judy Arnall, author of Parenting with Patience, the average age when kids get their first smartphones is around 10 years old. But we are aware that exposure to mobile mostly commences at a very young age.

It is essential to know how much screen-time can be permissible at varying stages of childhood.

An ultimate guide for childhood stages and smartphone usage

  •   0-3 years

What should have been a pleasant picture is becoming an eyesore, unfortunately. We are talking about infants and toddlers yielding smartphones in strollers.

A child’s vision is not developed entirely until they reach age 4 or 5. Parents either are ignorant of this fact or just neglect for their convenience. Handing over smartphones to toddlers to appease them can never be justified.

New parents must be conscious not to allow screens to interfere between them and their newly found treasure. Healthy attachment develops through eye contact while feeding or cuddling with your child.

Try to keep children below 2 years far away from devices.

A child thrives given the affection and attentiveness by parents; it needs very little in the name of ‘gadgets’. But modern-day parents weave a vicious circle around their sleeping and feeding routines.

Be careful about using your digital devices around young children. The message you want to convey to your child is, “you matter the most,” not “you have to compete with the devices for our attention.”

For 2-4 years old, screen time must not exceed a few minutes, that too occasionally.

  •   4-6 years

Preschoolers can understand what family and values mean, which can be a great starting point for discussing technology usage at home. This is also the right stage to introduce media literacy skills.

During this time, a child undergoes critical brain development. But what you find is – preschoolers zoned out in front of screens at restaurants, which can prove to be damaging to developing brains.

Read Also – How Do Smartphones Affect Childhood Psychology?

Overexposure to smartphones has adverse effects on kid’s sleep, nutrition, outdoor activities, as well as emotional needs and social skills.

Not permitting the device access is commendable, of course. But if you are allowing, ensure kids don’t get to browse on their whim and limit it to a minimum.

  •   7-9 years

When your child starts attending school full-time, fill their spare time and weekends with physical activities of their choice. If your child is inclined towards creative hobbies, encourage them to pursue it.

You can educate them on how marketing and media target them as prime users and plan their business strategies accordingly. This is also a great time to demonstrate how you use screens and to talk about the potential benefits and pitfalls of the technology. 

Similarly, this is an appropriate time to involve them in simple day to day tasks, such as cooking, shopping, and planning. Meanwhile, you can also teach them how to use technology as a tool (for example, “let us find the way to our destination by Google Maps.”)

Ideally, children belonging to this age group are still young to own personal mobile. Again, under adult supervision, they can be allowed to have 30-60 minutes of screen time.

Empowering children at this age is valuable for developing healthy screen-time habits.

  •   10-12 years

Adolescence is still very much what it always has been – a period of hormonal changes, shifting social dynamics, and the exploration of new frontiers. For today’s tweens, the prevalence of tech is very different than for earlier generations.

Children should not be given internet-enabled mobile devices yet. If the need arises for being in contact, they can have a regular cell phone. It’s time to increase their knowledge about the digital world.

Ask them to refrain from watching inappropriate or scary content online. Creating social media accounts is still a no-no. But make them aware of the cyberbullies’ existence and what they should do not to fall as prey in their hands.

Ask schools to provide clear guidelines to families regarding the requirements of any online learning or one-on-one programs. Your guidance still matters a great deal when your child is this age.

  •   Teens

Most of the children have their smartphones by the time they turn 14. It is not uncommon to see kids on a daily basis who are addicted to technology and suffer from depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.

Technology overuse is giving rise to several mental and physical health issues among youth. According to experts, a child is ready for supervised use of a smartphone by age 13.

But parents can be the best judge to gauge the maturity level of their child. They can do so by observing their decision-making abilities, capacity to safeguard the devices and judgemental skills.

Going through phenomenal hormonal changes and having wonders of the digital world on fingertips is a heady mix for teens. Parents must always be alerted to look out for red flags. Social media can be proved to be stressful for them.

Doctors recommend that teenagers should not have more than two hours of recreational screen time a day.  And they must include breaks after 60 minutes of use.

  • When you find your child’s fascination with smartphones turning into an addiction, try to implement specific steps.
  • If your child is very young, ask a family doctor to make him/her understand the harmful effects of devices on their vision.
  • Encourage them to participate more in outdoor activities, try to be a part of it.
  • Back them up with real-life examples of the victims of mobile phone addiction, which is a sure way to make them see things clearly.
  • You must minimize the use of a smartphone and decide and paste ‘family media usage guidelines,’ where everyone can see them.  
  • Talk to your child in a way that reinforces their trust in you.

Bit Guardian Parental Control

Bit Guardian is an amazing parental control app with various features. It allows you to block any inappropriate apps, unwanted calls in your kid’s device. You can also monitor their location, set a geofence around them, and schedule their routine.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bit Guardian has soothed the anxious minds of the parents of digitally-driven generation. 

Remember, it’s in your hands to be a great screen-time superhero for your children by modeling the behavior you hope to see in them!

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