What’s the right age for a child to get a smart­phone?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By ANN-KATHRIN MARR

MORE and more chil­dren of pri­mary school age are get­ting their own smart­phones, but ex­perts are crit­i­cal of this trend and say it is not nec­es­sar­ily good for them.

Clau­dia Lam­pert, a me­dia teacher at the Hans-Bre­dowIn­sti­tute in Ham­burg, Ger­many, be­lieves chil­dren of that age are too young to un­der­stand all of the de­vice’s func­tions.

Kristin Langer, a me­dia coach with a Ger­man youth ini­tia­tive, adds that par­ents should adopt a step-by-step ap­proach to the mo­bile and dig­i­tal world when it comes to their chil­dren.

“In or­der to un­der­stand the func­tions of a smart­phone and learn how to pro­tect them­selves on the In­ter­net, ado­les­cents need time and the sup­port of their par­ents,” she says.

A nine-year-old could be given a sim­ple mo­bile phone with­out In­ter­net ac­cess, she sug­gests, and a pri­vate smart­phone is ap­pro­pri­ate at the ear­li­est for an 11-year-old.

If the child wants to use their par­ents’ smart­phone, the par­ent should su­per­vise. If the child is on the In­ter­net, it’s not enough for the par­ent to sit next to them, says Ul­ric Ritzer-Sachs, an ex­pert with Ger­many’s Fed­eral Con­fer­ence on Ed­u­ca­tional Coun­selling (BKE).

“Par­ents must look and ask. They need to con­trol what the child is do­ing,” he says.

Soft­ware can help by block­ing ac­cess to prob­lem­atic con­tent. “Such pro­grams of­fer good ba­sic pro­tec­tion, but par­ents should not rely on them 100%,” Langer says. She also rec­om­mends us­ing a search en­gine for chil­dren and a start page specif­i­cally for chil­dren. Be­fore giv­ing chil­dren a smart­phone, par­ents should es­tab­lish some ground rules – for ex­am­ple, by de­cid­ing for how long each day the child can use the de­vice for play­ing games, watch­ing movies or chat­ting.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, pri­mary school chil­dren should only spend an hour a day at most us­ing a TV, com­puter or smart­phone.

From a de­vel­op­men­tal psy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence is very im­por­tant at this age, Ritzer-Sachs says.

That means ac­tiv­i­ties such as climb­ing, run­ning and play­ing out­side. — dpa

More kids are get­ting smart­phones at an ear­lier age. — 123rf.com

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