Is it Really Smart for Children to have Smartphones?

By Alison Erves

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2018 at 5:13 PM PDT

Have you ever heard the saying, “children’s minds are like sponges?” Well, that is because from the time we are born to early adulthood we are absorbing information from the stimuli in our environment, just like a sponge. Harvard University’s Center on The Developing Child says, “The development of a child’s brain architecture provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health.” So what happens to the brain when its architecture is built and structured in technology? Studies have shown that children who are introduced to smart devices at an early age and continue to stay glued to their screens through the rest of their developing years are at high risk for a weakened cognitive capacity and function, according to PsychCentral

Latest research shows that, on average, children receive their first smart device at approximately the age of 10, according to the New York Times.

Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007 by Apple, the smartphone industry has skyrocketed into something unprecedented. Nearly everyone, everywhere, has access to smart technology and owns at least one or more personal smart device. In recent years, smart devices have become increasingly popular among children and teenagers, starting at as young as three years old. It used to be that just young adults and adults were seen glued to their screens, now the epidemic has trickled down into young children.

PsychCentral attributes this to society’s fast paced lifestyle where we see parents giving their children their own phones as a distraction or quick source of entertainment.  Often, the parents eventually decide to just give their children their own phone to avoid handing over their personal phone to their kids. Research has also revealed an alarming concern about a lack of interaction between parents and children and that, “this screen time is taking away from their learning and physically exploring the world through play and interactions.” Both doctors and educators worry about the overexposure to smartphones and how this behavior can impact the brain.  There is also concern about the harmful effects of radiation and radio waves on the human body and brain.

This is because the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are still developing from childhood into early adulthood. Doctors and scientists are unable to agree on what the serious implications of children using smartphones are, but they can agree that it does affect the developing brain on some level, including limiting social interaction, communication skills, and emotional development.

It is important to realize that we live in a world full of technology and the answer may not be to just cut out smartphones all together from children’s lives. In fact, technology can lead to new skills and give children access to a variety of information. Like anything else, technology is the most useful to us as human beings in moderation. PsychCentral gives some helpful insights to parents on how to carefully manage smart phone use in their children’s lives, including not giving a screen to children under the age of two, limit the hours a child spends looking at the screen, and make sure smartphones are not interfering with socialization, playing, and the opportunity to spend time outdoors. Additionally, only let your children play with a smart device in airplane mode to limit radiation exposure, use speakerphone when using the phone for calling, and don't let children sleep with smart devices near their heads. When it comes to smartphone safety, distance is key.