The use of mobile phones by children is a recurring question for parents. One wonders at what age are they ready (physically, emotionally, cognitively, emotionally?) to use a smartphone or tablet? Above all, we want our children not to develop a digital addiction and to do so, we must establish rules of good behavior age by age with screens. Here are our tips for introducing children to digital so that they do not develop bad habits.
Zineb refused to give her daughter, Sara, a phone for as long as possible. Then, for her 13th birthday, she received a smartphone as a gift from her godfather. She was the last of her friends to have her own phone. To explain this refusal, Zineb says that she did not want the massive use of screens to absorb her daughter’s life too much. And now that she got her smartphone, Sara is on her phone a lot, constantly messaging Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp.
Sara’s parents fear a phenomenon of digital addiction for their daughter, which deprives her of doing other activities that she previously enjoyed.
This example illustrates the discomfort that parents can feel on the issue of the telephone and the child. Does this mean that children should be prevented from having a telephone, or more broadly, from approaching screens. The answer is obviously no. Today, digital is everywhere. It has become part of our habits and accompanies us in many of our daily activities.
To prevent your child from using screens is to cut him off from part of society. It is not for nothing that we are talking about a new phenomenon: “Digital exclusion” for the most deprived. A study by Morocco Times TV showed that the average age of the first mobile phone among young Moroccans was 11 years old. We must therefore help them from an early age to understand this new tool and support them so that they learn to use it well.
As we teach our children to behave well in society, we must show them how to use and behave well with a smartphone, on the internet and on the various applications and social networks that they are very fond of. But all of this is learned step by step.
From 4 to 6 years old
It is strongly recommended that young children avoid using telephones and other mobile devices. As for exposure to screens, such as television, it should be less than an hour a day for children 2 to 5 years old. And for children under 2 years old, they should not be exposed to screens at all.
It should be understood that the use of smartphones from an early age harms the proper development of the brain. Mobile devices quickly accustom the brain to their use through the production of dopamine, better known as the pleasure hormone. The constant stimulation of the brain, generated by the screens causes “cerebral shocks”. This results in a phenomenon of rapid dependence in the little ones.
We’re not saying that mobile devices or screens more broadly are bad for kids. It’s how you use them that matters. Too young digital exposure disconnects children from the basic needs necessary for their proper development: food, sleep, physical activity, play, imagination and concrete experimentation with physical objects.
If young children get used to screens, the brain loses its ability to get its dose of dopamine. Why go play, go outside, make friends to get dopamine when you can get it easily with your screen?
Getting children used to mobile devices does not allow their socialization. It is important that the child meets, plays, exchanges with others, looks at their faces to develop empathy, learns to read emotions, understands social interactions and the functionalities of objects. Social skills develop in contact with other people and physical knowledge during experiments.
From 7 to 9 years old
For this age group, it is still not recommended to offer a smartphone to your child. Even if they become more and more curious and it is more and more difficult to restrict their access to your own phone so that they play Clash Royale, Bubble Witch or Pokémon Go. However, it can be understood that it reassures parents to leave a phone for their child when they are away from home. In this case, you can very well opt for an old-fashioned, clamshell phone. The classic Nokia 3310 will do just fine. Plus, there’s the Snake game on it.
The same goes for using social media. Between 7 and 9 years old, they are still too young to go on it. At this age, it is difficult to understand the system of permanent publication. Children under 13 have not yet developed their critical thinking skills. Exposure to the flood of daily publications and messages can be a source of stress for the child.
Exposure to screens in this age group must also be supervised by parents. Children aged 5 to 11 should not spend more than 2 hours a day in front of the television, PC, tablet or smartphone.
10 to 12 years old
Parents should still limit phone use at this age, as well as any internet-connected devices. Kids can start having their own device, but internet-connected smartphones should be avoided.
Mobile devices and the use of social networks by children of this age can cause emotional disorders. In particular, they promote excessive confidence in the child who constantly feels valued by the likes, hearts, shares, flames on his publications and messages. Or, conversely, an unjustified depreciation of his person compared to other children. This can be harmful for the establishment of a necessary confidence in him.
Reality shows that children get their first smartphone at the average age of 11. Difficult then not to give in to the pressure of his child who explains that all his friends have one. Instead of strictly prohibiting the smartphone and social networks, we must accompany the child in his first uses.
As soon as the child begins to use smart devices, connected to the Internet, parental controls must be put in place. There are many tools, software or applications for this. Follow your child to understand what he is doing too. Parents should not feel overwhelmed by a game or technology. Then ask your child to explain to you to soak up his world.