Tech vs Child - When should I give my child a phone?

I’m new to blogging, so I didn’t want to go too far too fast into the world of the unknown. However having been asked to contribute to They Call Me Dad, I wanted to throw myself in at the deep end and do what I do best, talk about myself, my boy, technology and childrens products (I’m now surrounded by toys and baby things most days).

I’ve not really covered tech before, I’ve watched numerous youtube videos and read hundreds of articles but combining tech with daddyhood...that’s a toughy.

I thought for my first foray into this new area I’d stick to a general topic which is close to my current thoughts (I like to plan ahead) - when should I start introducing a phone to my child?

I think parents, especially in Western society, really struggle with this issue as we are always on our devices. You might be browsing your phone waiting for a queue to go down, sipping a latte whilst reading the latest papers on your tablet or just crushing it at your job glued to the computer for eight hours a day. However you are using your devices, I bet you then supplement your all screen day with a good dose of TV at night.

Screens are everywhere and it is hard to escape them. Years ago our parents would sing us to sleep or wind up a doll, now (as the saying goes) there’s an app for that. Our children are constantly seeing us pick up our phones, tablet or flicking through the TV to find the next good thing. And like it or not studies are showing that this behaviour is starting to affect our kids. Now I am not going to sit here and say that Max (my son) doesn’t watch TV, he does, but I try to limit it where possible, and I try not to let him watch (what I find to be) addictive TV. By that I mean something that is trying to sell me a product at the end of it and make him want to watch more and more. I don’t think I need to list the offenders. The only issue with this approach is the TV can be a parents best friend. Put the bright big screen on and your nagging child issues melt away. It’s certainly the easy option, but is it the right option? As Max isn’t at the terrible twos yet I fully anticipate my descent into all things Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol.

Children naturally pick up on what the parent is doing, and I would say at least seven out of ten times Max will look at me, I will probably be on my phone. The other three times I will no doubt be picking my nose...he’s got no chance.

Phones are being shoved into the hands of younger and younger children. And although I am not there yet with Max it won’t be long until I, like many parents before me, have to make a choice.

The other thing is that parents like to compete. It is an unwritten rule in parenting that your child is always the best and must have the best stuff. So whilst I am fully intending Max to have a Nokia 3310, I imagine most other kids in the playground will have the latest iPhone, so my arm will no doubt be twisted. I suppose my point is that technology is inevitable, you can’t shield your children from it, but maybe what you can do is limit it and hold them back slightly. After all what does a child really need a phone for? Safety is the number one thing that springs to mind. Being able to call home or call 999. And although Apple’s next ad campaign might tell you otherwise, your child doesn’t need an iPhone to do that.

When should you give your child a phone? Maybe you already have, in the form of a Fisher Price toy or got them to take a selfie? The bottom line is that it is totally your choice when you give them any technology, but once they have it, it’s hard to take it back.

More and more studies are showing the downsides of technology in a child’s life but technology is a natural part of adulthood, so my solution is moderation. I think a staged approach is the only way forward. That way, hopefully Max will learn the benefits of technology but not get so engrossed he never looks up. And when he needs a phone for safety an old Nokia will do. They have snake on it, so I’m sure he won’t get bored.

Oh snake, I miss you, hours of endless fun…

***A side note - now that I am contributing to They Call Me Dad I will be covering some products and tech that may be useful to parents. As I am not a famous blogger (however much I pretend to be one...)  the products I will review over the next few months are just things that I am passionate about and I will let you know when/if the post has been sponsored...I am looking at you Toys R Us.