Children · Parenting · Technology

What Age Should a Child have a Device?

My guess is that this Internet fad isn’t going away. In some ways our society is driven by the Internet. Computers are in every area of our lives whether we like it or not. Modern cars have computers and so do airplanes; we shop using computers; computers help us find destinations. Some of us grew up without them and I wonder what the younger generation would do without the Internet.

When is a good time to introduce your child to a technological device? I’m going to propose several questions to ask before giving your child that first device. I don’t mean letting a four year old play a game on your phone while in the doctor’s office. I am talking about giving them their own device with Internet access whether through Wi-Fi or a data plan.

This is one of many questions in life that is not black and white. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” My recommendation is talk to other parents you trust about this subject. Don’t make the decision on your own. Ask parents of older children about the struggles they may have experience with children using devices.

What is the main purpose of the device? In a society that doesn’t think about much, we are often sheeple just following the next person in front of us. The question is “why am I giving my child this device?” There could be a multitude of reasons. Is it for learning or entertainment? There are games or apps out there which will give our children academic advances. There are also harmless, fun, entertaining games. Is it for communication? Devices can also be a great form of communication. We have relatives in Ohio that we love to keep in contact with. The girls ask about them often and every once in awhile we use video chat so they can see them. One thing I would caution is buying a device just as a babysitter. I’m not going to say that my wife and I have never used devices for that. But if you’re initial intent is to simply occupy time, I think there could be some long term consequences.

Does my child maintain a balance between entertainment and education? There is nothing wrong with entertainment . I think  adults would be hard-pressed to ever say that we are never taking time to be entertained by something. The question, however, does my child have a good balance between using a device for entertainment and educational or social reasons? I have a bad feeling that somewhere around the 2050s we are going to start seeing increased depression in our population. I think this could be a direct result of people who are going to look back on their lives and realize that their biggest accomplishment was killing electronic birds or planting an electronic garden. This could be soul-crushing when you are old enough to see what you could have done, but instead wasted your life on a device.

Does the device help my child communicate or harm them in this area? Years ago before devices were really popular and phones were just getting Internet, my friends and I discussed this. We predicted there would be a generation of people who had a hard time interacting because they experienced so little face-to-face interaction. We are now reaping the consequences of this. If your child’s socialization is suffering from a device maybe it’s time to take a break from that device.

How do my children behave when they don’t have a device? This may be one of the last questions on your mind but maybe one of the first things you should ask. How does your child act when you either take away that device or shut it off? I’m not suggesting that halfway through some show they’re watching on Netflix you rip it out of their hands to see their reaction. How do they respond when it is time to set it aside? Do they throw a fit or get angry with you? This may be a sign that you need to limit their screen time or take it away altogether and give it back to them at a later time.

Am I prepared enough to monitor that device? If you think as an adult you understand what is going on with some of these children and their devices, multiply it times 3. When the Internet first came out we were all worried about kids interacting with pedophiles. While this is still going on, I’m not sure that’s the biggest threat to our children right now. The fact is with Wi-Fi, data plans, and the Internet in your pocket, plenty of things are going on between children and/or teenagers. So how do you moderate? My parents used to have our computer in a public place in the house where everyone could see it. At the same time it would take almost 20 minutes to upload a stick figure. Now a child can be looking at porn for free while sitting on the same couch as a parent, who is unaware this is going on. I also suggest that you have the password to any social site that your child has as well. Let them know that you may go on at any time whatsoever and look at what they’re doing or who they’re talking to. And don’t just say that, do it.

Does my child have the wisdom to handle a device? Do they have the wisdom to tell you when someone else is trying to get them to do something wrong on the Internet? Do you have an open line of communication with them or would they choose to “protect” their friends from consequences?  Most importantly, don’t let your child take any device to bed. You’d be shocked at the number of teenagers whose grades are affected by this very thing. Maybe they’re simply talking with friends, but getting to sleep an hour to three hours later than they should. They are not rested and their minds are not fresh for the next day. Because you are unable to monitor late hours, I would suggest not allowing teenagers to take a device to bed.

Have you talked to your children about sex? This seems like a random out-of-place question but it needs to be addressed. Sex is everywhere, but it’s especially available on the Internet. Do you want your child to know what God’s plan for sex is? Or are you OK with another 10-year-old explaining to your 10-year-old what sex is. You have to be one step ahead of the game with this.

How does the device affect our family time? Maybe your child is on a coloring app, they are doing nothing immoral, but is it hurting family time. My children are only six and five and we’ve already had to battle this at times. Sometimes we do an entire unplugging for an entire night. I could be wrong but I feel like when we do this we actually have a smoother and much calmer night. But if that device is taking up too much family time, it is unhealthy for the child and the family.

Does your child have a device just because “everyone else has one?” If you have read through the article and thought that maybe it’s not time for your child to have a device yet, don’t fall into peer pressure. If you want to teach your child how to handle peer pressure help them by not feeding into that peer pressure yourself. Not every child that is eight has a cell phone, I work in schools and I see what’s going on.

I hope these things help. I think if you asked yourself these questions and discuss them with other parents, and pray for wisdom, God will give you the answer. A childhood is something that you cannot get back. Let’s be wise parents as we make decisions that will really affect their young lives.

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