According to a 2021 survey by Common Sense Media, 42% of children in the United States own a smartphone by age 10, 71% by age 12, and 91% by age 14. They are staggering numbers.
Christian parents are aware of their God-given responsibility not to conform to the patterns of this world (Rom 12:2). This includes patterns of technology use. When we give our children phones, we introduce them to a world filled with dangers and temptations. We shouldn't build a security wall that completely isolates our children, but we shouldn't be naive either.
What is the appropriate age? It is a complex question for parents. Once you give a child a phone, chances are you won't take it away. Therefore, before taking the step, you have to ask yourself four questions.
1. Does your child really need it?
In recent years, our way of thinking has been clouded by changes in the way we view technology. Before we thought of technology as a tool; we now think of it as entertainment.
It's not like kids never access the tools and features of a phone, but they mostly use it for gaming and multimedia. Even before smartphones came on the scene, we were not short of entertainment. Parents should ask themselves: "Is it really necessary that my son has a telephone?».
Before we thought of technology as a tool; now we think of it as entertainment
Most parents agree that children should spend more time outside playing, enjoying nature and hanging out with friends instead of being busy with screens. But even the practice of seeing friends is organized through text messages; Such is life in the 21st century. So asking the related question, "Are there creative solutions to situations where we think our child needs a phone?" can also be helpful.
2. Is your son mature enough to handle it?
Before you hand your teenage daughter the car keys, make sure she's prepared. It is necessary that she first learn to drive, get her license and show that she is a responsible driver. A smartphone is not much different. It is valuable, powerful, and can be incredibly destructive.
The decisions you make in your child's early years will inevitably affect him later. For example, I know many parents who struggle with video game addiction in their teens. When you open the door to technology, it can lead to dangerous and unwanted places. So ask yourself:Does my son or daughter have the necessary maturity to look away from the negative images and messages that appear on their screen (including with filters and protectors)? Do you have the discipline to do your homework before picking up the device? After all, using a smartphone for one purpose—for example, checking the weather—can lead to many other "checks."
You know your son better than anyone. Make an honest and sober assessment. Are you mature enough to own a smartphone?
3. Are you prepared to have conversations in advance?
The ability to communicate well with your child is essential. When it comes to a phone, a child will naturally see the benefits, not the dangers. It is your job as a parent to articulate what your family values are. Let him know when you think he'll be mature and ready to use a smartphone. Share your concerns with him. Even in the daily routine, strive to find time for communication. The more you talk to your children, the better, especially at this formative stage in their lives.
Such conversations require intention and time, but they can be a great blessing. As the Scripture says: «Listen, my son, to the instruction of your father / And do not abandon the teaching of your mother; / For they are a garland of grace for your head, / And necklaces for your neck» (Pr 1:8-9). Smartphone Conversations provide an opportunity to discuss crucial topics like sin, temptation, self-control, and idolatry. Don't miss out on these opportunities.
4. Are you modeling good tech habits?
A friend of mine jokes about his father telling him, "Do what I say, not what I do." Parents can get away with this double standard for a while, but it will eventually take its toll on us. Many of us would admit that we spend too much time on our smartphones. Our children are noticing.
Are we falling prey to the same things that we worry about for our children? In our technology-saturated world, there are things we need to use our smartphones for, but in what areas would we do well to reduce their use?
Are we falling prey to the same things that we worry about for our children?
The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to "be an example to believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity" (1 Tim 4:12). Similarly, it is critical that Christian parents set a godly example for our children. When we manage technology wisely, we can go a long way in ensuring that our children do as well.
A smartphone can certainly help your child grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, but it can also open doors to sin, temptation, and crippling habits. Having a phone is a privilege, not a necessity. Don't be afraid to ask other parents for advice who have already walked this path.
Although the subject is thorny, let us approach it with caution and discernment, seeking wisdom from on high (James 1:5).