More and more people are using smartphones such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices but unlike a few years ago when smartphones were only being used by the business elite they are now being used by all ages but I want to specifically take about children around the ages of 9 and 14 using smartphones.
As I walk around my local town, I see children aged roughly between 9 and 14 using BlackBerrys and iPhones but why are they using them? They don’t need to use the email function, the web browsing function or the apps that can be downloaded from the various application stores for smartphones.
My mobile phone history
It sometimes frustrates me to see children using smartphones as when I was their age; I was using a Siemens A55 which did the basic phone functions; calls and text messaging, on the orange background with the black text, basically, not a colour screen.
I got my first smartphone two years ago when Android was just starting to be accepted by the general consumer, it was the T-Mobile Pulse. It worked most of the time during its two year life. Email started to be quite important for me as I received various emails throughout the day from various projects I was involved in. It was only back on October 14th this year when I got the iPhone 4S, unlike others younger my age, who have had an iPhone for 4 years.
What do I think?
My opinion is that children between the ages of 9 and 14 should not have a smartphone. They have absolutely no need for it at all. For some, it’s more of a fashion item than an actual device that they depend and rely upon for phone, text, email and other associated activities that come with smartphones these days. (This comes with news that teenage girls exchange 4000 texts a month).
Costs for parents from children using smartphones
Another aspect of having a smartphone, particularly the new smartphones and the ones that have lots of features, is that they are quite expensive to run either on pay as you go or on contact. Most smartphones will require always-on internet which costs £5 per a month, for example. BlackBerrys require BlackBerry Services (BlackBerry Messenger and Push Email) which is another £5 on most mobile phone companies then you can add on your contract (minutes and texts) which can range from £10 a month to £61 a month on T-Mobile and O2 costs roughly the same as well.
Parents will be paying this and in the current economic climate, some can’t afford it but somehow they do. Parents should think before they buy their children a smartphone as they are wasting their money on something which child won’t use to its full extent. Most children won’t bother paying half or the full amount of their monthly bill as the may see it as something which they right not a privilege.
The pros of children using a smartphone
It’s hard to justify the use of a smartphone by a child but there are some good uses. I think that most parents will say that by using a smartphone, they can track their child to make sure they are safe while they are out playing with friends or going to school.
Smartphones and their apps, which can be downloaded from the application stores on devices, do provide children access to more learning resources which can help develop their learning and skills further. You can guarantee that there is an app for every type of subject (on the Apple App Store) which are taught in schools these days; Science apps, Maths apps, Art apps, spelling apps, apps for learning foreign languages and many more.
A recent survey, which polled 1,876 parents across the UK, showed that one in five children under the age of 16 own a smartphone of which 43% owned Android devices, 29% used an iPhone and 11% owned a BlackBerry. Another thing which the survey pointed out is that 9% of parents buy their child a smartphone is so that they wouldn’t get bullied at school for not having one. This links in with my point that smartphones are a fashion item for children.
The dark side of children using a smartphone
Smartphones can be used to bully other children through advanced messaging features which are available on smartphones and also apps which can be downloaded. Social networking apps can be added to smartphones functionality and can be used for cyber bullying through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter but also through BlackBerry Messenger (commonly known as ‘BBM’) which comes pre-installed on all BlackBerry devices where a user can send a “broadcast” out to all his/her friends. This feature of BlackBerry Messenger can be used to send mass-messages about a person to other people and then other can forward it.
Questions to be asked
I think the questions to be asked are;
- Do children really need smartphones?
- Can smartphones be beneficial to their learning alongside school?
- Are smartphones a fashion statement?
- Should smartphones be banned for children under the age of 14?
My overall opinion is that children under the age of 14 should be using a smartphone as they don’t need to use all of the features that come with iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices. The cons of a child using a smartphone outweigh the pros of children using a smartphone.
John-Paul Dickie is a student and a technology, media and news addict aspiring to be a journalist. He blogs occasionally at http://johnpauldickie.co.uk/
Do you think under-19s should be allowed smartphones? When did you first own a smartphone? Can a teenagers and children use smartphones to their full extent? Are smartphones a fashion statement? Share your views below…