When my children were young, the question of them having a smart phone never came up (yes it was invented by then). I've read all the articles warning parents not to give electronic devices to children before their teenage years as their brains are still growing and we don't want it to affect them. Yes, and I'm one of those who believe that the mobile phone can cause cancer.
It wasn't until I'd upgraded my phone and we didn't know what to do with my old one that we decided to give it to my eldest to only play games on. He was a teenager by then but he didn't even asked for it. What were we thinking? We just thought it'd be a waste if I gave it away. Bad decision - I should have just given it away!
My youngest teenager then decided it was unfair that his brother had one but he didn't. He even told us he'd be willing to pay for it with his savings. What were we to do? We said yes and let him pay for half of a second-hand phone that was not the latest model. Bad, bad decision! We should have taken away the eldest's phone then it would have been fair again.
When we gave our second son the phone we laid down the ground rules, well only one rule that we thought was very important. Our one rule was that there was to be no electronic devices at the dinner table. We should have thought about it and added a few more rules.
Alhamdulillah, the boys never really liked to take their phones into their room probably because the room they shared was small and it wasn't convenient on their bunks. Much of their electronic use was done in the family room. Alhamdulillah for the dinner table rule because there was a strong temptation to use it there. But they didn't because we had that rule in place. As for school, well their school didn't allow students to use their phones.
But then as they grew, the addiction kicked in. They were constantly on their phones even when travelling in the car for drop offs and pick ups - usually a short few minutes drive. I was constantly telling them to put their phones away and to sit in their silence. Because in the silences is when they can start to think.
It fell on deaf ears.
Until my husband and I sat with them and watched this.
The following days, I started noticing my children not on their phones as we drove in the car. No matter where we went and how long it took, they were off their phones. I noticed that we talked more, they talked more and we connected with each other as a family unit more.
We recently went on a train ride and they found ways to entertain themselves like playing games such as thumb wrestling. (I used to play this with my siblings when we were on car rides and which they used to do when they were little!) They insisted my husband and I wrestle with them too. And sometimes they would sit in their own silence which I was what I really liked.
The answer to the question "Should I give my child a phone" is:
1. Hold it off for as long as possible after they've reached their teenage years.
2. When you do give them the phone, have some ground rules. Pick three that are the most important to you. Stick to it. Enforce it no matter what.
3. My children don't have their own phone numbers. My husband has the spare numbers that he gives to them if they ever went somewhere by themselves to be used in emergencies. This actually limits their internet access when we're outside because they don't have a sim card.
4. Limit the hours and the times that they can use it.