After all, is there an ideal age for a child to get their first cell phone?

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With the pandemic, many isolation measures were adopted to contain the advance of Covid-19. One of the impacts that this generated on society was an even more expressive dependence on technology on a daily basis.

In particular, those who have experienced many hours of screen exposure in the last two years – whether on a cell phone, tablet or computer – were children, who also had to adapt to the distance learning format. Perhaps the greatest challenge for parents and guardians is precisely to find a way to balance this scenario.

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While some prefer to set a period of the day to allow access to the cell phone, others prefer to skip steps, offering children their own device at an earlier age, which, according to experts, can especially jeopardize the development of socio-emotional skills, such as empathy and relationship. social, for example.

The fact is: without proper supervision, many children end up spending hours online. In an interview with Digital LookDr. Ana Bárbara Jannuzzi Lagoeiro, a mother and doctor who works with other mothers to help babies sleep and routine, answered some questions on the subject.

Is there an appropriate age to give a child their first cell phone? Is there a model that you see as ideal?

“Currently, the use of electronics and technology in general is actually much earlier than children need. The orientation is that they have zero access to technology for at least the first two years of life, that is, zero use of screens. With the exception of occasional cases, such as video calls with family members, for example.”

Between the ages of two and five, the recommended exposure is a maximum of one hour a day. “Which does not mean that this is necessary for child development. The ideal is not to use screens”, explains Jannuzzi.

Dr. Ana Bárbara Jannuzzi Lagoeiro works with other mothers to help their babies sleep and routine. Image: Personal archive

The child’s lack of maturity is also pointed out as a factor for not having their own cell phone so soon.

“At this age, in addition to not needing it for brain, cognitive, emotional and motor development, children need other things. Screen time is taking away from them the time to run, play, exercise their creativity, be outdoors and relate to the physical world. Therefore, there is no ideal age, the idea is to postpone it as much as possible and give a cell phone to the child only when necessary.”

When does this need arise?

The main example is when it is necessary to communicate with the family at school, for example, if there is no other means to do so.

“Many children usually get their first cell phone at the age of six to get in touch with their family”, commented the specialist.

“Going to the second question, it is very difficult to find cell phone models that currently do not have internet access, which would be ideal. Even the simplest ones already bring a lot of information, such as games, etc. The ideal would be a device capable only of telephoning. In practice, in the ‘real world’, it is difficult to define the recommended model.”

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What is your view on exposing children to the internet at an earlier age?

“By accessing the internet without supervision, children will have millions of possibilities at their disposal. When I take my son to the park and see who are the people who are interacting with him, how the conversation is, I manage to control the environment in a way, inside the house there is also this control. In the digital environment, however, this does not exist”, exemplifies Jannuzzi.

“Although many use strategies such as apps that allow them to access only certain websites, there is a lot of information on seemingly harmless pages that can distort the child’s perception.” An example of everyday life cited by the doctor was children who are able to access violent content through news that is released daily on the web.

And where are social networks?

“Social networks are a world apart. We have several reports of children with depression, anxiety and suicide cases because of the psychological effects of being in a judgment network. Something that is already hard in small environments like the classroom with bullying practices. Can you imagine being exposed to people you don’t even know? Children are not used to any of this.”

See also: what is cyber bullying?

What to do then?

“They (children) are exposed at an earlier age to a production of dopamine that depends on cell phones and exposure to certain content. Hence, the cycle of an addiction ends up forming. How many children do we not see that no longer play at parties, for example. Their happiness starts to be much more related to the screen than in fact real life. If we, who are from another generation, have already created patterns of dependence on electronics, imagine who started at the age of five or two now”, concludes Jannuzzi. It is worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) already defines cell phone addiction as a clinical pathology.

In the end, the question is how all this transition will be made and how will it be controlled from childhood. If the family knows how to manage this process, perhaps in adolescence the child will know how to take advantage of technology in a healthy way, adds the specialist.

Other tips worth mentioning: when the child is already using apps and games, it is essential that parents monitor their children. It is also important not to forget to promote other activities that are also interesting and take the child out of focus on the cell phone screen.

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