According to a recent international study, young adults who acquired smartphones before turning 18 had superior mental health.
Females who obtained their first smartphone at age 6 were more likely to experience mental health issues (74%) than females who received one at age 18 (46%). The percentage for males decreased from 42% at age 6 to 36% at age 18. The Sapien Labs study had 27,969 participants between 18 and 24.
Chief Scientist Tara Thiagarajan said, “These findings suggest that there are long-term improvements in mental well-being for each year of delay in getting a smartphone during childhood.” We must continue researching this connection to create efficient policies and actions.
However, according to UAE-based experts, children should receive their first smartphones in their teens because we live in an increasingly digital society focusing on devices. Digital wellness consultant Anisa Ismail, located in the UAE, stated that she “typically recommends” that children have phone access from age 13. “12 years and under, shouldn’t have their phone, but can have supervised access to one.”
Anisa claims that teaching kids how to use technology properly takes patience and is similar to teaching them how to wash their teeth. She stated that young children should be taught about phone usage responsibilities. “The illustration I like to use is how parents teach their young children life skills like tying their shoelaces or brushing their teeth. Although it is a laborious and prolonged procedure, eventually, the skill is learned. It is necessary to teach people the best ways to use a phone.
She said there should be some fundamental ground rules when giving children technology. The purpose of the phone should be obvious, the apps downloaded should be useful, and everyday phone usage should not exceed two hours, according to her.
According to Dr. Lauren Smith, Clinical Psychologist at Sage Clinics, the ideal age to give children their first phone depends on their developmental age, what the phone will be used for, whether there will be any parental controls, and the level of monitoring.
According to us, introducing cell phones to kids requires careful thought and proactive parenting, said Dr. Lauren. “As mental health professionals, we support a balanced strategy that promotes responsible phone use, transparent communication, and engaged parental involvement.”
Despite the lack of local data, research from 2021 claims that 31% of 8-year-olds in the United States are smartphone owners, rising to 71% for 12-year-olds and 91% for 14-year-olds.
Balances and checks
According to experts, parents should establish ground rules when handing children smartphones. According to Anisa, transparency and establishing reasonable standards are the two most crucial things parents can do. “There is no reason why children wouldn’t have a healthy relationship with their phones as long as they can understand [the rules],” the author says.
Dr. Wafa Saoud, a clinical psychologist at Sage Clinics, shared Anisa’s opinion. “It is imperative that parents take steps to promote responsible and safe usage when giving children their first phone,” she said. Drs. Wafa and Lauren gave the following guidelines for providing children with a phone:
1. Clearly define rules and parameters for phone usage, such as time limitations and designated technology-free areas.
2. Teach them the significance of protecting personal information, avoiding spreading offensive content, and being aware of the possible repercussions of their online behavior.
3. Setting up parental control software to monitor and limit access to stuff that isn’t appropriate for your child’s age, as well as agreeing with them on regular supervision and what that includes.
4. Promote open and constant dialogue with kids about their internet experiences while addressing their worries and promoting sensible practices.