In Australia, over two thirds of children under seventeen years own a smartphone, with the average age being twelve (Digital Life, 2015). Whilst there are concerns of smartphone use with children, there are also some benefits when used appropriately.
- Smartphones come with the advantage of allowing us constant connectivity with our children, which creates a sense of security knowing they can contact us, or us them, at any time.
- Appropriate use of smartphones for entertainment purposes allows kids to have some downtime, gives parents a few minutes to get things done when we need the kids entertained, and, if we monitor it properly, can be educational too.
- Smartphone use can be a reward and motivational tool.
- Activities on smartphones and similar devices can improve visual skills such as tracking visual information, searching, developing peripheral vision and visual acuity.
- Use of such technology linked to data plans helps children access information through online resources such as encyclopedias, cyber searches, dictionaries, and educational applications.
- Gaming can help develop decision-making, and problem-solving skills.
Depending on who you talk to or what you read, messages about smartphone use and children are mixed in terms of the risks and benefits. As parents, you will need to consider your own children and family situations when making decisions about smartphone and similar technology use. General guidelines suggest “everything in moderation” with adults modelling appropriate use of smartphones without over-reliance on these devices; monitoring use by children and setting realistic limits on time, suitable games and entertainment, and online access; prioritising real life interactions with others over online relationships; and having screen-free recreational and learning opportunities.