Currently more than half of U.S. children — an astonishing (at least to us) 53 percent — have their own smartphone by the age of 11. And by the time they are teens, 84 percent have smartphones.
Those percentages will continue to increase while the age that most youths get smartphones will be even younger.
A new study by Common Sense Media, as reported by National Public Radio last week, is not necessarily a reason for concern. However, it should be viewed as a need for society to put a greater importance on teaching children to use smartphones and other digital devices wisely, in moderation and for learning.
Kids should be taught to use their phones in productive ways just as they should be educated on social media — everything from what’s appropriate to possible dangers. Frankly, a great many adults also need such schooling based on what’s posted on various social media platforms.
Guidance in phone usage could also help address and reduce problems such as cyberbullying, anxiety, depression and self-image issues.
Yes, many parents and caretakers are teaching these things to their children at home. They monitor smartphone and computer use and take steps to ensure usage does not engulf their lives. But many children don’t have that opportunity at home or elsewhere.
These lessons, many of which are already taught in schools, should be introduced at even earlier ages. It’s about preparing children to succeed in life.
Right now, it is estimated that 60 percent of teens do homework on a computer daily. That number is quickly heading to 100 percent. Introducing lessons on proper and effective smartphone and computer use could also help level the playing field when it comes to success in academics.
This was noted in the Common Sense Media report in its conclusions. NPR pointed out that the report said about 1 in 5 children has a phone by age 8.
“There could be a silver lining to children getting their first phones closer to elementary school than high school. Scholars ... have argued that parents need to model healthy social media use with younger children, and let them participate. And (a parenting expert) says that parents can help establish healthier habits with the first phone by taking a heavier hand while children are younger — by checking the phone periodically, actively coaching kids on social media etiquette and handing the phone over only at certain designated times,” NPR reported.
Technology is here to stay. Finding ways to manage it in positive ways is now a life skill that we all need.