The decision whether or not to let your child have a smart device is sometimes not as big a decision for parents as it should be. It is often easier to simply hand your phone over to a fussing child — especially in public — than to try and entertain them in some other way. Besides, if your child is used to having a phone in their hands, it may actually be the phone they want, anyway.
But, smart devices aren’t all bad. They can have good qualities and even be helpful to children in the right circumstances.
Here, we take a look at the pros and cons of smart devices for your children.
When we talk about smart devices, that includes any device that can connect to the internet, including smart phones, internet-capable toys and any other device that can get children online.
The interconnectedness of the world opens up many opportunities for kids, especially for satiating their curiosity. Phones, toys and other devices that can connect to the internet are incredible tools if they are used correctly.
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the main reason why so many children end up with a smart device in their hands; peace and quiet for parents. There is no shame in wanting your kids to be distracted long enough for you to eat a meal or use the bathroom or just not have to pay direct attention to them for a little while. An app game or YouTube video can give you those few moments of peace. Putting children in front of a screen for an hour or two has been a go-to parenting move for decades since the invention of the television.
The future is likely going to revolve around smart devices and people who can create the systems to run those devices are probably going to be in high demand for future employment. If growing up with smart devices inspires your child to pursue a career in coding and software development, it could lead to a lucrative future for them.
Communication and Physical Security
Smart devices, at their core, are meant for communication. Regardless of whether it’s a phone call, a text message or a social media update, it’s about communicating with others. If your child has a smart device like a phone on them at all times, that means you are able to reach them at all times, which can be helpful when you need to get ahold of them for something or just to check up on them.
You can even take it a step further and know their whereabouts at any given time (providing they have the location tracker on their device activated). This increases physical security for your children by allowing them to always be in touch with you and giving you a way of knowing their whereabouts, if necessary. A phone can give parents peace of mind about the physical safety of their children.
Having access to virtually all of the world’s information at their fingertips can be great for helping children with homework or for just helping them explore interests and passions. If they are curious about a subject, they can easily read about it to their heart’s content and then watch some videos about it and probably even find a game based on it. Smart devices can act as a window to the world for kids.
Those are all undeniably great things for children, but smart devices also come with downsides. From addiction to a decrease in physical activity, these are some of the cons of smart devices for children.
If you are always giving your child your phone to keep them quiet, they might become dependent on it. Addiction is a serious issue and while we usually think of drugs and alcohol when we think of addiction, people can become addicted to electronic devices if they start to depend on them too much.
That addiction can have serious mental health consequences for them. Studies have shown there might be links to phone addiction and increased stress, anxiety and even suicide. If your child constantly has a phone in their hands, it could be taking a toll on their mental health.
While constantly having a phone on them can help increase your child’s physical security by always giving them a way to contact you or authorities, devices connected to the internet also pose a security threat to children. Predators use online accounts to connect with children and even toys that are connected to the internet can pose risks for kids.
Children are also more prone to cyberbullying the more they are online and they can fall afoul of scam artists that might try to steal from them or manipulate them so the scammers can steal from their parents.
It may not even be strangers who pose a risk to your kids online. Even a peer can pressure a child into doing something inappropriate like sexting or posting unsuitable photos of themselves online.
Misinformation & Inappropriate content
While the entirety of human knowledge is accessible online, there is also a potentially equal amount of disinformation there, too. Your children might end up with unhealthy ideas that can lead to unhealthy behaviors if they are not discerning about where they get their information from.
Even adults can easily be duped into believing erroneous information online, so children are even more vulnerable to it.
Related to that is inappropriate content. Whether that’s adult material or content created to harm
people or incite them to harm others, children might accidentally come across it online or even
seek it out.
While an electronic device won’t immediately turn a child into a couch potato, they do tend to cause a drop in physical, outdoor activity. This goes not just for smart devices like phones, but also for video games and anything else that keeps children indoors and not moving. While electronic devices are not the only thing to blame for children being more sedentary, they definitely play their part.
Whether you decide to give your child a smart device or not, you should conduct your own research so you know the risks involved. You may also want to have some boundaries about when and where they can use a device to help keep them safe. Before you put that phone in your child’s hands, it is wise to weigh the pros and cons of doing it first.