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What is the ideal age to give your child a cell phone? Expert clarifies the matter

It is inevitable to recognize that technology, constantly improving, has already revolutionized and will still revolutionize the search for information, personal and professional relationships and communication as a whole. If, several years ago, the cell phone became an essential element in the routine of most adults, this dependence on the device became even more evident from the moment it became a means of accessing the internet – having today, including, this as its biggest function.

And children and adolescents were not exempt from this revolution either: on the contrary, they tend to learn at an earlier age about the functions of technology – especially through cell phones – and, consequently, to desire them in their daily lives.

But, what is the ideal age to give your child a cell phone? This is the question that haunts most parents, who understand the important uses of the device, but also recognize the risks that its inappropriate use can offer.

When should I give my child a cell phone?

Is it possible to speak of a determining age: 7, 8, 10, 12 years? Or can the answer vary according to the particularities of each child/adolescent?

Andrea Ramal, PhD in Education from PUC-Rio and consultant, points out that it is worth thinking a lot before handing a cell phone to a child before the age of 12. “This does not mean that 6- or 7-year-olds do not have great technological skills and that they cannot use them in leisure or learning activities, at home or at school. But to have your own electronic device, with internet connection and autonomy of use, it is necessary to have sufficient intellectual and emotional maturity”, she explains.

“The problem is not the technology. She is neither good nor bad. The problem is that the internet has become the only environment from which to view the world. Moderation, balance and monitoring are fundamental”, emphasizes the educator.

In other words, there is no fixed, pre-defined age. It depends more on the maturity of the child. “Parents must observe whether the child has the necessary discernment to use these devices with progressive autonomy, as well as to deal with the problems that they can bring together, such as, for example, the volume of messages in WhatsApp groups, access to content that may not be age-appropriate, but that we do not have control over sending/receiving, control over knowing when to use it and when to turn it off (for example, during class)”, explains Andrea.

Care after giving your child a cell phone

After handing a cell phone to your child, and no matter how much you trust him, it is essential to be aware of the way in which the device has been used. The main guidelines for parents in this regard are:

  • Dialogue permanently: it is important to talk openly with the child about actions that represent a misuse of the cell phone, such as, for example, access to content that is not appropriate for their age or the lack of limits of use (not recognizing when the device should be left beside). “It is necessary to mention these points not just once, but in a permanent dialogue, trying to form this awareness and progressive autonomy in use”, highlights Andrea.
  • Monitoring: according to the educator, it is worth monitoring the use in the first months, to see if the cell phone is being a tool of help or, in fact, it is disturbing the child’s routine.
  • Set limits: as a form of monitoring, according to Andrea, it is worth setting daily time limits for the use of electronic devices. “One tip is to negotiate the exchange of minutes of use of the devices for important tasks, such as doing homework or getting good grades”, she explains.
  • Setting an example: it is essential that parents set good examples of how they handle their cell phone so that their children have someone to look up to in a positive way. “If you don’t want your children to stop talking at meals because they’re on their cell phones, it’s essential to keep the device turned off at these times”, exemplifies Andrea.
  • Do not allow it to be the only means of communication: establishing daily time limits for the use of electronic devices is already an efficient way in this sense, but, more than that, it is important to continue stimulating the child’s interest in relationships and programs ” face-to-face activities”, such as family outings, games with friends, activities such as playing ball or riding a bicycle.
  • Explain, without terrorism: “when talking to the child, explain that the internet is like a street in a big city. ‘What parents would let their child walk alone, cross the street in the midst of chaotic traffic, talk to strangers, walk through the crowd? To cross the street the first few times, the child holds the parent’s hand, right? The same occurs in the case of a child who connects alone by cell phone. She will be exposed to a world that has good things but lots of risks. Parents will need to lead her by the hand, initially, until she is mature enough.’ Dialogues like this show that it is not a matter of ‘prohibiting for the sake of prohibiting’. The child understands the meaning and is more likely to follow this guideline”, highlights Andrea Ramal.

In other words, it is important to dialogue with the child and, yes, talk about the risks that a cell phone can offer, but this without doing so much terrorism (and thus running the risk of stoking even more the desire to misuse the device ).

The ideal age to give your child a cell phone can be: 9 years old in one family and 12 years old in another, for example. The most important thing is the maturity of each child and, also, the attention that the parents are willing to dedicate to this issue. After all, monitoring, good examples and clear and constant dialogue will become fundamental responsibilities of parents at this stage of the child’s life.

Tais Romanelli

Journalist graduated in 2009 (58808/SP), freelance writer since 2013, totally adept at working from home. Communicative, always full of topics to talk about and inspiration to write. Responsible at work and outside of it; dedicated to commitments and the people with whom she lives; in love with family, dogs, home, the sea, moments of tranquility and also excitement.

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