1st world problem: At what age do you buy your child a phone?
The first justification for buying a child a cell phone was: “I just like knowing I can reach my child, or she can call me at any time. Gives me peace of mind.” All those poor parents that had to live with the angst of not knowing where their children were in centuries past; how did they do it?
It is a different world now, and while it is the safest time in history to raise a child (considering modern medicine’s eradication of major diseases, the lowest level of poverty ever, and violent crime down in much of the free world) the anxiety over raising children is at an all time high. There is only one culprit: media.
Access to media that glorifies violence, drugs, sex and any other kind of instant gratification is omnipresent. Social media, in the hierarchy of needs, falls somewhere between breathing and sleeping. And all of it fits in the palm of a child’s hand.
We are beyond the question: “At what age do you buy your child a phone?”
The real question is: “What phone at what age?”
Yes, parents need to stay in contact with their kids, know where they are. And the schedules kids keep these days—from band camp to soccer practice to study group to a late night with friends—demands that kids be able to check in when carpool is late or practice location has changed. Some parents even use to hire Uber and Lyft on regular occasions to do the carpooling until the rules changed that won’t allow drivers to pick up unaccompanied minors. What’s a parent to do?
With trackers and hackers and ads and adult content and phishing pedophiles hanging over every kid’s smartphone like the evil witches in Oedipus, parents have every right to be unnerved, if not neurotic.
Many parents make a hard and fast rule to not give their kids a phone until they are in middle school. Some go retro with a flip phone. Other provide a smartphone and try to throttle the content and child’s access. It all ends in a power struggle that erodes trust.
So here’s what we are doing at ClearCompanies:
The first phone a child should get is one that allows the child to call and text, has a screen that allows simple functions like a clock, maybe reminders, a couple of educational games and a camera to take pictures of friends that can only be shared via text. All of which can be monitored by the parent. This is age 8 to 12. They get used to technology, can call mom in an emergency, and can socialize with their friends.
When a child gets into middle school, their world changes. Homework is done on computers, turned in online. They need access to the Internet, group texts, and maybe, just maybe, some social media—like the soccer team’s facebook page. The phone to meet these needs loosens the clamps a little bit, but still has protection against hackers, trackers, pervs and ads. Content filters are controlled by parents, and most importantly, can not be hacked by the child. You’d be surprised at how quickly a 14 year-old can hack past parental controls. There are thousands of videos on YouTube that give step-by-step instructions.
Finally, there is the phone parents should have: the one that blocks every nefarious entity mentioned above, but also allows the parent to see dashboard activities of their children.
Think of it as matching a phone to the maturity of the user.
At ClearCompanies, we believe children need varying levels of digital protection, that parents should decide what gets blocked and even what data is shared, and that digital privacy is a right. The world has changed in amazing ways, and using the Internet the way you deem appropriate is your most basic right as a parent and an individual.
Protect. Connect. Benefit.