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Should Young Children Have Smartphones?

It is clear that electronics has had a major effect on the development of modern society. In addition, it is quite common to find many young children nowadays glued to their phone or tablet screens even while participating in family activities such as eating at a restaurant. According to a study, the modification of interactive mobile media devices is the main driver that has revolutionised children’s access to and experience of media (Kabali et al., 2015). The study found that young children, in particular those living in an urban, low-income minority community, all have universal exposure mobile devices, underlining that the youngest age for a  child to possess their own mobile device is the age of 4 years. In this article, I will be writing through the perspective of an adolescent and I will exemplify my main points by exemplifying from my personal accounts of mobile media use during my childhood. 


There are many dynamics in the child’s life that could be affected by the impact of adopting the use of mobile media devices, especially at such a young age, therein some of those include the child’s development and literacy. Giving the child universal exposure to these devices pulls them into an interactive world of fantasy which prevents them from extensively interacting with reality, especially when they are in the prime years of physical and mental development. Child development involves the biological, psychological, and emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the conclusion of adolescence. The main stages of life include early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. During the period of early childhood, development is significant, as many of life’s milestones happen during this time period such as learning to crawl or learning to walk and developing their first words. As for the first two stages, there are concerns that conflict with the child’s use of mobile media devices, however it is in the stage of adolescence that carries the biggest concern about children having their own smartphones. According to a survey, these concerns included the potential for cyberbullying, exposure to nudity and violence, mental health issues, and most commonly the issue of being addictive (Panda Security, 2019).


Parents play a key role in a child’s development and so does the influential factor of the quality of their care in the child’s development. This propulsion would include the appropriate and ample facilities to propel aspects of the child’s development such as their learning capabilities and social skills. There are those that argue that it is the use of interactive mobile media devices that play a beneficial role in the child’s education. Despite the fact that this is true, it is worth considering that in schools, the electronic devices and their browsers are heavily monitored with limitations to ensure that the students are only exposed to things that they should be learning. Mobile media devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops all carry their own benefits albeit only if they are used properly. The child’s use of electronic devices at home does not pertain to the purpose of learning thus the use and experience of the internet is not as heavily regulated. This gives the child access to the use of social media which is also not the right place for a child unless it is with the guidance of their parents. Quite frankly, allowing the child free access to social media without monitoring is like leaving the child in the middle of a forest infested with predators and dangerous animals. 


As electronics is widely used in information processing and telecommunication, the most common reason parents would give their children their own handphone or smartphone is to ensure their child’s safety by maintaining an efficient and reliable mode of communication, and in this case it is via text or phone call. It is easy to simply rely on a mobile device to ensure the child’s safety however it is worth considering that it takes more than that. Communication of course is key to a healthy therapeutic relationship, especially with children. In the mix of mixed behaviours and sudden emotional bursts, children are easily misinterpreted which causes a cloud of miscommunication. All in all, the thing they need most is to feel that they are being loved and acknowledged. Personally speaking, I admit that this itself is a challenge and at times I do find it quite difficult to maintain my own patience to put forth my younger siblings’ emotions before mine. While the children are still growing up within the development stage, they need the guidance of their parents or guardians to teach them how to manage their emotions. Things like subtle human interaction and eye contact are vital in the teaching opportunity to coach the child in managing their emotions to express their wants and needs in a clear manner (Ailin Quinlan, 2018). When it comes to the maintenance of communication in the discourse of mobile media devices and the reliance that parents have on it to stay in communication, the use of smartphones do not really have to come in. An alternative that parents could use is to bluntly communicate with their children on how to stay safe and what they want from their children to be reassured that they are safe and well wherever it is they go be it at school or out at the skatepark. 


On top of that, we did fine without mobile media devices before, so in this day and age, why do we act as if we simply cannot live without them? There are those who will argue that years ago the environment was a lot more laidback and there was a stronger sense of community that was heavily dependent on conversation, hence it felt safe enough to simply rely on ensuring safety by communicating. To begin with, in a situation where a family is out shopping at a mall and since it is commonly crowded with fellow shoppers, it would be advantageous for the parents to maintain a clear flow of communication with the child to stay safe with them. I am not saying that the fault lies wholly in the hands of the parents, in spite of them holding a great responsibility for the child, however they are human too so there lies a small chance that they may accidentally lose their child in the midst of a crowded area. In case a situation like this happens, the parents could speak to the child and teach them what to do if they somehow get lost. For instance, it would be beneficial to remind the child to stay in one spot when they lose sight of their parents or guardian so that it is easier for them to be found. 


The purpose of this article is to question the notion of allowing young children the use of and exposure to mobile media devices given that evidently it has been discouraged by reports (Kabali et al., 2015). In this part I will present solutions to counter this issue. This first being that it would be encouraged to only allow children access to electronic devices such as smartphones when they reach their adolescence, notable at 16 years old. Another solution to consider is that if parents insist on allowing their children the universal exposure to mobile media devices, it would be thoughtful to take proper control. Allowing them access to the internet comes with great responsibility to protect them from seeing things they should not be seeing and modifying the controls to ensure that their internet experience is safe and controlled. Everything considered, it is encouraged for not only parents, but others, to consider maintaining human relationships without the use of technology. There are those who may argue that technology has many benefits that are convenient for families, however weighing both sides of this argument, everybody has different styles of parenting. Some may want to depend on mobile media devices to influence their interpersonal relationships while it may not work out so well for others. The main takeaway from this as discussed earlier, is to consolidate the communication between one another in order for things to work. 



Kabali, H. K., Irigoyen, M. M., Nunez-Davis, R., Budacki, J. G., Mohanty, S. H., Leister, K. P., & Bonner, R. L. (2015). Exposure and Use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children. PEDIATRICS, 136(6), 1044–1050. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-2151

Panda Security. (2019). When Should Kids Get Smartphones? (Survey). Panda Security. Retrieved from: https://www.pandasecurity.com/en/mediacenter/panda-security/when-should-kids-get-smartphones/

Ailin Quinlan. (2018). How technology and social media is undermining family relationships. The Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/how-technology-and-social-media-is-undermining-family-relationships-1.3568291

Sarah Johan is a student at Monash University Malaysia, currently majoring in communication and gender studies. Despite already attaining a diploma in early childhood education, her divergence of interests such as writing, and art has driven her to venture out in new directions such as writing articles on matters she feels strongly opinionated on. 

Thank you for reading. It is quite a short article so I hope you understand it in these limited amount of words.

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