Mobile phone use in kids

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A lot of you probably watching this video grew up without mobile phones. And there’s a very simple reason for that.

Hi, I’m Doctor Joe.

Anybody probably who is older than twenty five is actually older than mobile phones. Mobile phones came to Australia in the very late eighties, but really didn’t take off until the mid to late nineties and smart phones following, you know, even later behind.

So really in one and a bit generations we’ve gone from really not having phones to, if you look around today, particularly amongst teenagers, it is pretty much living with their phone. It’s sort of almost become like a third arm.

So the question arises at what age, as parents, should you let your child have a mobile phone? And it’s a little bit like how long is a piece of string. There is no absolute right answer to that. It does depend upon your family situation, it does depend upon the maturity of the child and also the purpose for having it. For example perhaps, often in families where perhaps parents have separated, those children may get a phone at a younger age, because they may need to be in contact with one or other parent, particularly trying to sort out, you know, who is going to be picking me up, those sorts of things. But even so, it still gets back to the functions of the phone and what you can do. So having a phone so you can ring mum or dad is quite different to having a phone where you can get onto Facebook, Twitter and the internet.

So again, phones these days often do just about everything but call people. For a child at an age where parents think it can be helpful and appropriate for them to be able to ring, get them what we might call in this day and age, a “dumb phone”. And that way at least you know maybe they can ring you, maybe send a text but they’re not going to be getting on to the internet.

In terms of the smart phones, again there is no set age but probably into teenage years is when it’s more likely the case, so when children start high school which is going to be invariably twelve or thirteen, that may be a time. Peer pressure may start to arise at that point.

Bullying can be a problem in the cyber world; and in the non-cyber world what used to be sort of whispers and passing of notes can now be sending of texts and postings on Facebook.

Again, make sure you keep open lines of communication with your child at any age, so that you can help them through this and of course help is available and don’t hesitate to get it if you need it.

Sexting is also a topic that might come up and we can’t go into the legalities in a video like this, but again, educating your child about the fact that anything they put into cyberspace can be there permanently is sort of a conversation that you need to have. So in other words if you wouldn’t do what you’re about to do in the middle of a mall, then maybe you shouldn’t put it online either. And we know that even famous celebrities have had their accounts hacked and pictures appeared that they preferred not to appear. And that can happen to anybody. So just knowing that anything you do online or through the phone may be seen by anybody, even people you don’t like, is an important conversation to have.

But again I really do want to stress that it is an individual decision for the parents and the child, and then again the type of phone so when we’re saying phone, there’s differences in capabilities, so when you’re giving a child a smart phone, you’re giving them something quite different to a non-smart phone.

Okay, again, with any technology or any tool it’s in helping your child to work through it and understand how to use it. There’s an age at which you won’t let your child cross the road by themselves in fact you’ll carry them, then there’s an age that you’ll cross their hand as they cross the road and then there’s an age when they’re allowed to cross the road by themselves.

Same with technologies. In providing it you probably do need to supervise their utilisation and you do need to watch their usage and that’s on the internet as well as with phones. As they get more used to it and as they get older, much like crossing the road, you can relax and loosen the reigns and look, I think I’m not saying anything that parents don’t know, the fair likelihood is that a teenager will know more about it than you and will probably outsmart you with it.

But even knowing that is still helpful.

What really matters I that you’re teaching them how to use it responsibly and that they’re learning to do that and that what they’re doing is, if you like, age appropriate and specific. But also keep in mind that we all have to learn and that teenagers with mobile phones may make mistakes, that’s life, we don’t want to get too upset about it, we want to encourage responsible usage of technology, we can’t stop the march of technology.

Date Created: November 11, 2014 Date Modified: June 13, 2015

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