What's REALLY wrong in kids with personal smartphones..
Very often is not the smartphone. It’s another word.
An article on The Guardian explains why and how it would be a good thing if parents had the wisdom, and above all the courage, to NOT give:
to their kids until they are, at least, 11 or 12 years old. It’s a great article, but it needs a crucial clarification about one half of the problem.
Those chats. Those endless chats…
The first of the many not-so-good-after-all things that kids less than 11 years old “won’t be able to do if they don’t have a phone” is:
“to be part of a group chat, the site of hours of distracting discussions”.
It’s not the smartphone, it’s the “personal”
The first, if not the only cause of real problems here is not the endless chatting as such. Nor is the (serious, of course) fact that smartphones expose kids, much more than before, to porn and other stuff they may wait a bit more to know about.
What makes children chatting online a real source of real, serious problems (including a sleep deprivation epidemic) is something else.
It’s not the smartphone: it is what makes it necessary, even for children, to access the Internet from personal devices.
It is the cluelessness, in parents and almost every adult in general, of demanding to chat online with apps and protocols so totally, totally, totally cretin to use phone numbers as account names.
Yes, I’m talking of that embarrassingly rude and backwards hack that is WhatsApp, and everything that works like it. Including Telegram, to some degree.
If we all used REAL “online chat” systems…
Online chat, or Instant Messaging if you will, is good, or at least a necessary evil of our times. From that point of view, it is good that children know how to use it properly.
What makes Instant Messaging such a source of serious problems for children is doing it with systems that only work from one’s personal smartphone, because they only run on smartphones, and can only use the number of those smartphones as account name.
If WhatsApp were as technically advanced like email, children (and adults) could not “automatically discover” their phone contacts on the network. But a chat system that a) lets everybody choose as many user names as they want and b) use the same user names from every device, from smartphones to desktop computers would be infinitely better for children. And adults too.
The best porn and cyberbullying filter ever
If children less than 11 or 12 years old had a personal Internet chat account that works like email, but no PERSONAL SMARTPHONE (or just a very cheap, “dumb” phone for real emergency calls, if you the parents really can’t live without it), they could still:
- call home in an emergency
- and chat online with their friends, for homework or any other reason… but only from the desktop computer, or smart TV if you wish, in their living room
- only, that is, with rules and time limits actually enforceable by their parents
The best porn and cyberbullying filter ever is the living room.
Parents who, by not buying them a smartphone, physically limit their childrens’ access to the Internet to that room, in moments that they can set and monitor, can safely give real Instant Messaging accounts to the same children. The dangers will be infinitely smaller and much easier to detect early, but the children will not be cut off from their peers.
All it takes for this to happen is parents with the guts to organize the demand for such a system. The sooner, the better.
Images source: 80% of 8-year-olds own a device connected to the internet