Kids With Mobile Phones: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

It occurred to me recently that children born anywhere up to ten years ago are going to have a vastly different childhood to ours. My experience of state-of-the-art technology progressed slowly from Walkmans, to CD players, to a Nokia 3210, and eventually my own slow computer and laptop.

Children today are getting their parents to buy them smartphones and tablets with more processing power than all of my childhood technology combined. We don’t yet know how today’s technology will affect children differently to how our technology affected us.

Read on for a breakdown of popular reasons for and against children possessing mobile technology.

Reasons For

Social Development

One of the biggest differences children of today will have from us, is the way in which they interact socially. Instead of going round each other’s houses to talk and catch up, kids now constantly text, Skype, or do something similar. The question that concerns some people is whether they will turn into adults who behave the same way socially as we do.

Text-speak has already become very commonplace in schools. I can see why too; it allows you to express a viewpoint very quickly. Instead of saying, ‘that’s pretty funny’, just substitute ‘lol’. One school is so concerned that children will start substituting text-speak for regular language that it’s decided to ban text-speak within school grounds.

Kids Are Very Adaptable to Technology

Children have incredibly adaptable minds and skill sets, which is why most primary-school children can figure out how to use a smartphone faster than a 50-year-old. It is this adaptability that keeps kids one step ahead of the previous generation, since their minds can easily take in what is already the height of technology as their ‘starting point’.

By giving children access to technology like smartphones and tablets, it is gearing them up for a world which is destined to become more and more enveloped in gadgetry. If parents denied their children modern technology, would those children struggle with future technology, while their friends adapted immediately?

Instant Knowledge

Most mobile devices today have Internet access. All children need to do when they are curious about something is search it on the web, where they will find tonnes of accurate information.

However, some people think that ‘instant knowledge’ for kids isn’t as beneficial as it may seem…

Reasons Against

Googling, Not Learning

Google and Wikipedia have made doing homework so much easier. Frankly, it’s borderline cheating. My own younger brother gets most of his French homework done with Google Translate, and then copies it while checking the grammar.

The problem with Googling content is that unless the topic has interest or meaning to the child, they aren’t going to learn it. Children will learn enough from Google results to ‘get by’, thinking that if they ever need information again, they can return to Google. It is this depedence and laissez-faire attitude to learning that is worrying many parents.

The Real World

Many parents worry that if their children have too wide an access to the ‘real world’, they will grow up too fast. If a 12-year-old found their way onto Reddit, would their behaviour be altered by the content there, or for that matter, any other content on the internet? I myself think that most older children and early teens are smart enough to keep their lives and what they see online separate.

A Distraction

My own parents were hesitant about giving me too many things to ‘distract’ me from my school work, especially around study time. One exam season I yanked the SIM card out of my phone just to stop them nagging me to get off it. The internet is a huge temptation when you are supposed to be knuckling down and studying. Few kids want to learn the formula for the volume of a sphere, when they could be sat on Reddit, or chatting with mates.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am neutral on this whole issue. Although I think it’s a good idea to keep kids up-to-date with technology, I’m unsure as to whether the effects this might have on their learning and social development will be for better or worse. Any anecdotes as to how this has affected you or your family?

  • Xangria

    I don’t think making kids wait a few years to start using mobile technology is necessarily a bad thing. I was never allowed to use our family computer until around 7th grade (because my dad thought I’d break it), but I still picked up understanding very quickly and am now studying computer science and instead of breaking the family computer, I am always asked to fix it for them. So, no, restricting kids is not a bad thing.

    Though on the contrary, many families no longer have a landline for kids to use to call their friends, so if the parents do not want them using their cell phone the kids will need their on. I do not think an expensive smartphone is necessary though.

  • thepwneddroid

    I think that if you get a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you should act mature as if you were an adult. It’s a decision for the parents to make, whether their kids are old and adult-like enough to be able to go on the internet and make stupid comments that make you look stupid. Now that you read this, does it look like it was written by an adult with bad grammar? I am 14 years old, but I can act more of an adult rather than just going on here saying “Yes, they should,” and not give any back up.

  • Denise

    There are all kinds of unintended consequences to smart devices for children, not the least of which is the pressure for inappropriate behaviour from peers. There are always children not well monitored on these devices that create pressure to stay up late and text, or send inappropriate pictures, or to delve into adult content. It’s important that safe perimeters are set up around these devices, no matter the age of the child/teen. My 14 year old doesn’t manage as well as my 12 year old – it’s not the age, it’s the capability of the individual.
    Proceed with caution, and alway check what they are doing. Check their texts, their Facebook messages, their emails. Set limits to access and don’t let your child dictate how they use them – you decide.

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  • Pietro

    The world is changing, the nature of learning is changing. We have to think different and get close to our time, in my opinion, furthermore is better to discuss about how the learning will change, how we will learn from the web and what will be the result, what we will lost, what we will gain.

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