"I feel like I'm losing my friends to their phones." 10 year-old
Traditionally, going back to primary school after the winter break is a time of catching up with friends and sharing festive activities! Now it's also become a time for smartphone announcements and upgrade news! Children as young as 7 and 8 are swapping excitement for games and toys for apps, social media, and touch screens!
Smartphones, but is it really smart thinking?
As children develop greater independence in upper primary school, it can be a practical or safety decision to equip them with a phone. A phone. That's right: a device to call home, check-in, and send the occasional message.
Perhaps, a key step is to slow down at THIS stage of the thought process, and fully consider the needs of the child and choices available. Do primary children really need multi-purpose mobile computing devices? Is a basic phone ok? Is a phone needed at all? What needs are being met? Are there other choices?
"It's a different world now. Technology re-defines the way we live. Everyone has them."
The pay-as-you-go phones of the 90's and 00's (with bonus features such as calendar and radio) are just....? Well what???
Out-dated, uncool, vintage?
From a needs-based perspective, do primary school children really need much more that a basic phone at this developmental and life stage?
Throughout primary years, children develop behaviorally, cognitively, educationally, emotionally, and socially. They explore their worlds through creative interactions, communication, and play.
No matter how 'mature' some children seem, children are still children, not mini-adults, and do not have the developmental maturity and skills to face the complex, multi-risk, environments accessed through smartphones (which go way beyond the basic phone concept).
Are smartphones bad? Probably not. In fact there's arguably a lot of positives to them. But equally, in helping children to develop internet and technology health, resilience, and wellbeing, should we not be thinking more carefully about needs, purpose, safeguarding, and timing?
There has always been comparison and competitiveness among children about activities, clothes, toys... but recently phones have introduced a new social pressure and status.
"It seems they'd rather hang out with their posh phone than me" A statement I hear far too much as a BACP counsellor, as children describe interactions between peers.
The type of phone you have does not define YOU, your coolness, or popularity.
Let's think about the messages we are sending.
Smartphones have their places of course... but is this with primary children?
This blog is not meant to trigger reactionary sides- pro/against smartphones... but to encourage broader thinking and wellbeing awareness around phone choices for children.
We live in a busy multi-dimensional world. Let's think Smart: awareness, balance, creativity, needs, resilience, safeguarding, wellbeing.
Smart choices, smart children, and when the time's right....Smartphones.