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Smartphone for children: Good or bad?

Chinenye Anuforo; [email protected] 08063768550, 07054965005

Years ago, parents wondered at what age they should give their children full access to the car keys. Today, most parents face a similar question on when a child should own his or her own smartphone.

But unlike driving a car, which is legal in some countries from a certain age bracket, there are no legal guidelines for a parent to determine when a child could be allowed access to a smartphone.

According to Techopedia, a smartphone is a mobile phone with highly advanced features. A typical smartphone has a high-resolution touch screen display, WiFi connectivity, Web browsing capabilities, and the ability to accept sophisticated applications. The majority of these devices run on mobile operating systems, including Android, Symbian, iOS, BlackBerry OS and Windows Mobile.

Research has it that, on the average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10. For some children, smartphone ownership starts as young as seven, according to Internet safety experts.

There are good reasons to give your child a phone. It is a convenient way for them to keep in touch, especially in an emergency. You can also use the phone to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts as well as the educational apps for their studies, but these advantages are counter-balanced with the negative traits. For instance, there is the potential for your child’s privacy to be invaded by someone outside the family, due to fact that it is easy to track the whereabouts of a smartphone user; the risk of cyberbullying; the reality that your child never truly switches off; and the possibility of addiction to the device.

In other words, giving a child a smartphone could be advantageous as well as disadvantageous but, considering the fact that this is a topic of hot debate among parents, The Sun Tech and Gadgets sampled some parents’ reaction on the topic.

Reacting to the question, Stanley Uzoechina, Business Development Director, Large Michaels Limited, argued that buying smartphones for children is highly disadvantageous. He said a smartphone connects one with the world. It is a device that gives one instant connectivity and creates flexibility with data and access to a wide range of information and materials.

“A child of 10 does not require that kind of information and does not need to be connected to the world. To me, it is important that we shield our children’s exposure to elements that are not within our supervision until the child gets to a certain age, when he can take some critical decisions on his/her own. So, I will not support giving smartphones to children below a certain age, because they really don’t need it.

“With smartphone a child can have access to people that normally they are not supposed to have access to and people that are not supposed to have access to the child will have access to him. Also, with smartphones, a child can have access to information that he or she is not supposed to have access to. Children need phones but a feature phone that can make calls and receive call is enough,” he said.

On his part, Jide Awe, chairman, publicity, Events and Trade Services Committee, pointed out that buying smartphones for children depends on the age and the control of the device. He said it is not enough just to buy phones but the parents must supervise and monitor the child.

“If you don’t have that time, don’t buy a smartphone for him or her. If not, buy a functional phone that a child can use to do a few things like make calls and send text. Some children are more mature than others, so, you don’t buy a smartphone for a very young child,” he said.

Awe noted that smartphones are costly luxuries that a child does not necessarily need or, alternatively, a functional phone would serve as the child can make calls and text with it. “Why are you giving a child a phone that is so costly? It is difficult at times to really monitor them. There are things that they need to be protected from because phones always come with Internet access, which means you are exposing the child to the Internet and this makes the child vulnerable because some of these Internet activities can also be exploited by people with negative intentions, apart from the child being expose to certain things that are beyond the child’s age and understanding,” he said.

However, Ikechukwu Nnamani, president, Medallion Communication, explained that buying a smartphone for children depends on the parents’ purpose: “What do they need it for, is it to make phone calls and receive calls, so that they will reach you  in case of emergency or for you to be able to send them text messages or Whatsapp? These days, people use Whatapp as a platform to communicate. Moreover, these kids are becoming more  technological savvy.”

So, rather than deny them access to ICT gadget that every modern child needs to develop in the modern world, the emphasis should be placed on putting adequate parental control to make sure that they don’t go to the wrong sites because currently, things have evolved. We live in a technology driven world and if you don’t give them access to them, they will become inferior to their peers who have access to such technology gadgets.”

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