When should Columbia kids get cell phones?Back in September 2014, the New York Times published an article about how Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent. As the owner of Apple, many probably assumed his kids were among the first to spend time playing on an iPad. But to our surprise, Jobs said, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
In that same article, Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams, said that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books (yes, physical ones) that they can pick up and read anytime.

What’s up with tech people not wanting their kids to use technology? As someone who has worked in daycare centers and regularly babysits kiddos under the age of five, I think this type of new consumer technology available to us today is very beneficial in terms of keeping them preoccupied and even well behaved in public, whether they’re playing with age-appropriate, educational apps or watching a movie.

Perhaps a glimmer of worry sets in when I think about how my 2 year old nephew will soon outsmart me on my own devices. He knows how to unlock my iPhone, swipe around to find pictures and play music, and realizes that he can see grandpa if he taps the FaceTime icon.

OK, so maybe he won’t necessarily outsmart me in the near future, but he definitely knows how to work an iPhone better than my mom (sorry mom). The point is, he knows how to use this technology, not because he’s allowed to use it all the time, but rather because he just get it; it’s a second nature experience for him because he’s been around the devices since he was born.

Columbia Parents Open Up about Their Children’s Cell Phone Use

As it turns out, many Columbia parents of young kids also tend to introduce their children to phones at a young age (1 or 2) for the purpose of giving them something to do, like playing supervised games.

After asking 30 Columbia parents for their opinions on child cell phone use, here’s what we found:

  • A majority of parents find it acceptable to give kids their own phone between the ages of 8 and 16; average, 12.
  • 37% of parents find it acceptable to give a child a phone between the ages of 12 and 14.
  • 78% of parents consider the phone a parent-owned device that can be taken away.

A separate study cited 20 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls in the 3rd grade have their own cell phones. In 2011, Elizabeth L. Englander at Bridgewater State surveyed 20,000 kids in Massachusetts between grades 3 and 12. She found 39 percent of students across both genders had phones in the 5th grade, with a jump to 83 percent among middle school kids.

Kari Evans, a Columbia mom, shared her opinion on technology usage by her children aged 10 and 13. “Technology is an inevitable necessary evil that will inundate our childrens’ lives throughout their lives, but ensuring that we limit the amount of dependence that parents place on using it to pacify/entertain our children is crucial. Ensure that the focus is put on the foundation of what is needed to raise a strong, successful and confident child into a productive, morally strong and socially accepted and able bodied person in our society, “ advised Kari.Practice responsible cell phone use

Experts Advise Practicing Responsible Cell Phone Usage

Acknowledging the fact that cell phone usage by young children has its pros and cons is an important aspect of this discussion and no doubt has an impact on parents’ decisions to give phones to their kids. Experts advise considering the following before providing a cell phone for your child:

  • Ask yourself if your children “need” a phone for safety reasons or social ones.
  • Before providing them with the device, consider how responsible they are and if they can understand the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded.
  • Consider if you can trust them to use their phones respectfully and not disrupt class, embarrass or harass others. Teach them what inappropriate usage is to reduce possible instances.
  • Possibly choose a simple plan without the bells and whistles like downloadable apps, texting or GPS tracking.
  • Talk to them about how the phone gives their location information to their friends, and sometimes strangers too, and that they’re creating a digital trail with posts and photos that could exist in cyberspace forever.
  • Establish usage and house device rules.
  • Consider prepaid cell phones that can limit call times, dial out numbers, features and monitor overall usage.
  • Have your kids practice using a phone and allow conversations only in your presence until you’re certain they’re mature enough to handle the responsibility.

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