I feel like in the past five years or so, there’s been a resurgence in children having technological devices. We’ve become a more tech savvy society, so it’s only natural that children would want the latest cell phones, Wii games, iPods, etc. to pass the time. It’s a completely different world than it was even a decade ago, since now gadgets that we couldn’t even dream of (like music all in one device – that came after the eras of CDs, cassette tapes, and records) are now marketable to the general public.
Scanning a street in any given city, you see people walking around listening to their iPods or talking on their cell phones, but a large number of these are even children as young as 6 or 7 years old. You could be sitting in a restaurant and there’s a child playing a video game at the table or playing with his mom’s cell phone. It’s unreal how much children know about the new technological devices on the market, since past generations didn’t have internet so accessible (or even have it at all) or phones that they could take anywhere they want. It’s all new to recent decades and we don’t even know the effects on children of being so exposed to technology.
The question I’m posing is, how soon is too soon to get a child a cell phone or an iPod?
One of the main ideas to consider about technology and children is: are they getting enough exposure to life outside of the one present inside a television, computer, cell phone, etc.? Back in the day (even ten years ago), children were outside climbing trees, playing sports like baseball in the park, or playing tag outside much more than today’s kids. The onset of technology into children’s lives has made playing Wii sports more desirable than playing soccer outside or going on the computer instead of going to the pool. While obviously children still find their ways into the great outdoors, there are more distractions for them now that video games, iPods, and cell phones have found themselves into the hands of today’s youth. Parents have begun buying into the “easy ways” to entertain children and televisions have become new-found babysitters. Is this necessarily the way the world should be – where technology obscures the great outdoors – especially in such nice weather during the summer? As well, what should the ground rules be for children and new gadgets?
Some ground rules I recommend:
1. Cell phones don’t need to be given to children until they truly need to ask for rides to and from places. This is typically around middle school age when after-school activities tend to take up extra time after school and the child is not necessarily home at a specific time every night. I’ve seen children as young as 8 or 9 years old carrying around cell phones and find it odd that their parents would pay for something they most likely just play games on. Who does an 8 year old need to call that they can’t do on the house phone? Another point to make is: if your child has a cell phone, they should learn cell phone etiquette and know not to text at the dinner table, for example. Adults might already have these bad habits, but children pick up stuff quickly and early on: why not nip it in the bud if they have bad habits? The general rule of thumb is that children shouldn’t be ignoring someone right in front of them because they’re distracted by technology.