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Parents of children today face many different challenges when it comes to raising children especially when it comes to the use of technology.
Deciding whether or not it is appropriate for children under 12 to have a smartphone. With many reports of the increasing damage too much screen time is having on our children’s mental health and well-being, isn’t it time parents stepped down when it comes to under-12s who own own smartphones.
3 out of 4 children under the age of 12 own a smartphone according to the Irish charity Cybersafe kids, shocking numbers but perhaps not surprising to many parents who are no doubt listening to their children’s requests to have their own phone since childhood. as seven or eight years old.
This week parents of primary school children attending St Kevin’s National school in Greystones Co. Wicklow got together and agreed not to buy their children smartphones until they finish 6th grade.
They set up a voluntary code in a bid to keep their children away from screens. So far, 85% of parents whose children are in 4th grade at school have signed up to the idea of submitting their names anonymously. A welcome step but surely more parent groups and schools across the country could follow suit?
Alex Cooney CEO of cybersafe kids joined Sinéad on 11-1 today to discuss this and while he fully welcomes this move by parents of pupils at St Kevin’s National school, he warns that caution needs to be parents on other devices such as tablets and games consoles.
‘What we see is that 8-10 year olds are more likely to own a tablet or a games console and at the end of the day these devices have the same power, they have the same ability to access on the internet so we shouldn’t be kids, they’re the same as smartphones in many ways and kids can access the same kind of content’.
When asked if he thinks it’s up to parents to keep their feet up when it comes to kids owning these devices and controlling screen use, Alex explained that ‘ It’s easier for parents to stick with it if other parents follow suit, and the Greystones school is building a ‘community of support’.
Alex also wanted to point out that not all responsibility should be on parents and that social media and gaming apps need to be responsible for the way their apps are designed for long-term use.
‘Yes, many of the responsibilities are on the parents but their job is made more difficult by these companies because they design the apps and games that our children use and they design to be as addictive as possible, encourage as much interaction as possible , as much sharing as possible as possible and in a way parents have to fight that and it’s very difficult ‘, explains Alex.
However, is the message about the importance of online safety enough for parents? Few reports of increased anxiety in children caused by excessive use of social media, or cases of online bullying or how prolonged use of these apps contributes to low self-esteem to our youth that we need to hear before we as parents act and stop giving in to our children’s demands for a smartphone.
Sticking to this rule means protecting our children’s innocence from the many dangers online and while our long-standing reliance on technology will mean children need to be digitally savvy, surely a shared family owned devices for educational use and leave smartphones until secondary school.
For more information and advice on how to encourage your children’s online safety see https://www.cybersafekids.ie/
Hear the full conversation from 11-1 again here https://play.acast.com/s/lmfm-11-1-show-podcasts/11-1-tuesday-16th-of-may-2023