Social Media Mania - at what age does yours start?

February 24th, 2020

If your 7 year old really, desperately wanted something and used the line, "it's ok, X and Y's parents let them have it...", would you be influenced? A lot of us would. 53% it would appear.

Would you let them have that something if you knew that there was a possibility the following issues could be accelerated in your 7 year old's life?

  • Tiredness
  • Grumpiness
  • Under-performance at school
  • Low self esteem
  • Vulnerability to bullying
  • Vulnerability to paedophile predators
  • Attention seeking
  • Risk taking
  • General disobedience at home and school
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Anxiety

53% of us would according to a recent study by CHILDWISE.

If that something had the potential outlined above, would you allow it in their bedroom? Would you allow them to use it unsupervised? Would you allow them to sleep with it?

You know what I am alluding to. It's that innocuous gadget that we tell ourselves is about their safety and being in touch when they are away from us - the phone.

CHILDWISE, a research agency working with children, has investigated young peoples' relationship with their phones. They surveyed 2,167 UK children aged 5-16 and found the following:

  • 53% of youngsters owned mobile phones by around the age of seven.
  • By age 11, 90% had their own device, and phone ownership was "almost universal" once children were in secondary school.
  • 57% of all the children surveyed said they always slept with their phone by their bed.
  • 57% said that they did not know what they would do if they lost their device.
  • 44% said they would feel uncomfortable if they were somewhere without a phone signal.
  • 42% admitted to being "constantly worried" about running out of charge.

Now, we live in a world where we have choice and that includes choice about the way we bring our children up. But I am sure that most parents would think twice if they could, through the choices they make, avoid a lot of the issues described above.

Does that mean that children should not have mobile phones? I personally question whether they should and I see plenty of primary age children who suffer behavioural issues, bullying and friendship issues which are undoubtedly exaggerated by the fact they have phones. With phones, these issues can be continued outside of school, behind parents' backs and where the teachers have no influence.

Here at My Internal World we want to help adults make healthy choices. We are trying to help people develop coping mechanisms that would solve a lot of the issues outlined near the top of this article. Some of these issues, however, are completely avoidable.

If you are going to let your child have a mobile phone we suggest the following actions are considered and implemented, particularly for those aged under 13 (the minimum age for most social media apps).

My Internal World's suggested mobile phone ground rules for aged under 18:

  • Phones may only be used downstairs, this includes adults - role modelling is vital
  • Limit usage to an agreed amount of time each day - max 2 hours
  • Phones do not go to school - most schools ban them in school time
  • Parents have the unlock code
  • Parents to check the phone and all its apps randomly, whenever they want to (suggest minimum once a week to make it habitual, safe and non-judgemental)
  • Do not allow apps to be accessed before the official age - there is a reason for this. Adults use theses apps and behave completely differently to children
  • Rudeness, refusal to cooperate, and ignoring homework is met with a reduction in phone usage
  • Phones are placed on charge downstairs at night

If you are a parent reading this, are experiencing any of these issues, and you are worrying that you have let the genie out of the bottle and it will not go back in, you are wrong. It will be a tough challenge but your child can be taught responsible healthy phone usage.

If you are considering buying your child a phone and are caught between the dual pressure of their peer based nagging, coupled with your desire to keep them happy and having being influenced by this article, consider this:

Warwick Dyer, Child Behavior Change Expert says, "We do not spoil our children by giving them things; this is a complete fallacy. We can give our children all manner of things, and as long as they are given under our terms, we do our children no harm whatsoever."