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Children and mobile phones: Instructions for use

We are living in a world that’s getting more and more technological and in which devices like smartphones have become our everyday companions. Our mobile phones are often taken by our children, who soon or later will want one of their own.

The age at which children, who are already true digital natives, receive their first mobile phone is getting considerably younger. Therefore, parents have the task of setting limits and putting down rules to make them consider the mobile phone a useful communication tool and not an addiction.

However, it’s the parents who often gift their children their first mobile phone to feel safer and be able to check upon them when they are not at home. Yet probably, the best solution would be to keep our anxiety at bay – after all if our own parents have survived without being able to phone us, we can manage as well – and wait for our children to first express their wish to receive one. Trust us, this request won’t be put off for long.

If you already find yourselves dealing with a scenario in which your kid constantly reminds you that “all my friends have a mobile phone” and you don’t know how to react, then here’s some advice on how to manage this situation.

Surely, if this request is made before they’re 10 years old, it’s better not to take any notice of it. According to the paediatricians of the Italian Preventive and Social Paediatrics Society, we still don’t properly know to what extent electromagnetic radiations negatively affect our body and children don’t have adequate knowledge to be able to conscientiously deal with a device that could get addictive and cause behavioural disorders if abused.

Moreover, up to 12-13 years old, the mobile phone is seen more as a toy rather than a valuable object. For this reason, when you’re about to make a choice, it’s better to pick models that are more robust and cheap, so that if they break or are lost, there will be no drama.

After the age of 13 we can finally give them their first mobile phone without feeling too guilty, but we should never let our guard down: navigating the internet can expose them to many dangers. Then pick a mobile phone fitted with Parental control, in order to block the access to unwanted sites or those with inappropriate contents. The same goes for the registration to social networks, which should be allowed only after 14 years old, when our children are mature enough to know how to fend for themselves.

At the right moment, we have to bear in mind the basic health rules to be handed down to our kids: limit calls, avoid keeping the mobile phone too close to the body and switching it off at night. But, above all, teach them to use it properly and moderately, guiding them in their first steps in the Internet and making them understand the value of relationships outside the web.