Children with Smartphones? Five Smart Reasons Not to Give Your Child a Smartphone

Walk down any city street, and chances are the majority of the people you see will be looking down – focused more on the smartphone in their hands than on the world around them. While the majority of these smartphone addicts are adults, it’s becoming increasingly common to see children with smartphones doing the same. As a growing number of parents are beginning to introduce their children to tablets and smartphones during infancy, the ease with which even toddlers are mastering them can be startling. Last summer, researchers at the University of Iowa reported that by the age of two, 90 percent of modern children can use an iPad. Given these statistics, it’s hardly surprising that kids are beginning to want their own smartphones at a younger age than before. Influence Central’s 2016 Digital Trends Study revealed that on average, kids are receiving their first smartphone between the ages of 10 and 11. But is it really smart to give your child a smartphone? Here are five reasons why it may be a good idea to wait until they’re in their early teens.

  1. Smartphones can negatively impact their brain development. The average human brain triples in size during the first two years of life. Interaction with a parent’s voice and touch are crucial during this period for building neural pathways that teach us how to bond emotionally with others. The more a child interacts with a screen during this formative period, the greater the likelihood that alternate neural pathways will be created – ones that negatively impact concentration levels, cognitive ability, self-esteem, and the ability to have deeply personal relationships. Meanwhile, the part of our brain that governs our response to impulses doesn’t finish developing until we’re in our mid-twenties. It follows that children raised on smartphones tend to lack impulse control or the ability to self-regulate, and have a greater tendency toward tantrums. Yikes! 
  1. Smartphone usage can lead to sleep deprivation. For years, doctors have been advising insomniacs to shut down their smartphones, tablets and e-readers for at least an hour before they go to bed at night. The light emitted from the screens of these devices suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, leading to a shift in circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. These effects are even more pronounced in children. A 2010 Boston College study indicates that 75 percent of children between the ages of nine and ten are sufficiently sleep-deprived for their grades to be negatively impacted.
  1. Smartphone usage impairs their ability to learn. By constantly distracting children from important developmental activities like homework, classes, discussions, and sports, smartphones can severely impair a child’s ability to learn. Crucial visual-motor skills and hand-eye coordination are often forestalled, especially by gaming apps that can limit your child’s imagination while slowing his or her motor and optical sensory development.
  1. Smartphone usage can make them obese. For most children, like most adults, using a smartphone is a stationary practice. By discouraging physical activity, smartphone use can increase the likelihood of childhood weight gain. A 2011 study revealed that children who were allowed to have a personal electronic device in their bedrooms were 30 percent more likely to become obese. Meanwhile, obese children are at greater risk of having an early stroke or heart attack – not to mention developing diabetes.

5. Smartphone usage can cause social anxiety. Smartphone use in children has been linked to shyness, lack of empathy and discomfort in social situations with peers as well as adults. Obviously, learning social skills is imperative for all children. The longer you wait to give your child a smartphone, the more time he or she will have to develop important communication skills and learn to feel at ease around people.

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