Last week, my cousin sent me a Snapchat.
I know that sounds completely normal; a lot of people talk to their cousins on the daily.
So let me rephrase that.
Last week, my ten year-old cousin sent me a Snapchat from her own iPad.
Does anybody else see the problem with that sentence? Correct me if I’m wrong, though I’m totally not, but not only is ten too young to be taking on the responsibility of a cell phone or tablet, it seems almost unnecessary at such a young age.
I witnessed both my cousins, eight and ten years old, receive their iPad minis for Christmas, squeal with high-pitched excitement and then immediately start downloading apps. My cousin even asked me if I had specific games on my phone, and then yelled at me for not having them because “everybody is playing it!”
I don’t know when this happened, but all of a sudden it seems like too many elementary schoolers have a cell phone, two tablets and five of every generational iPod.
A recent study performed by vouchercloud revealed that the average age for a first-time cell phone user is six years old, and that 53 percent of American children will have owned a cell phone by the age of seven.
Yes, you read that correctly—six years old. SIX. They are practically still in the womb at that age. What on earth do they need a phone for at such a young age?
When asked this question, 31 percent of the parents who participated in the survey said they wanted to reach their child easily, 25 percent wanted their kids to keep in touch with friends and family and 20 percent said they felt their kids needed it to keep up with their friends.
To this I have two responses:
One: I don’t recall how much knowledge I possessed at 11 or 12, but I can tell you right now it sure as hell was not a lot; not enough to justify having a phone that can call, email, Snapchat, text and FaceTime. I get the importance of safety, and a perhaps a regular flip phone for emergencies is understandable. But if you’re in fourth grade and you have an Instagram with 458 pictures on it, girl, you need to fall back.
Two: to the parents that said they felt their child needed it to keep up with their friends: are you kidding me? I got my first smartphone when I was 18 and going off to college. Sure, there were times in high school when having a smartphone would have been fun, but did I fall behind? My friends didn’t drop me because I couldn’t Snap them or be part of the group chat.
Matthew Wood, the managing director at vouchercloud, commented in an article about the survey, saying that because technology is naturally being exposed to children at younger and younger ages, it’s going to become apart of their lives.
“It’s not necessarily the bad thing it’s often made out to be; children learn about taking responsibility for things, looking after their possessions and they are much easier to contact if needed,” Wood said. “But it’s crucial that they use this technology in a way that doesn’t affect their normal social skills and growth.”
I’m not saying kids nowadays are going to go hide in caves with their iPhones and Androids and forget to make friends, but it seems odd to think that a ten-year-old could honestly need something like that.
Suddenly I feel as if I have reached the age where I am looking down at the younger generations, shaking my head and thinking, “What in God’s name are they doing? That’s not how we did it as children so they must be doing it wrong!” Am I now the old, angry grandma swinging her cane angrily at the young generations for doing everything wrong, or am I right in saying that the age of six is too young to start being trusted with a proper cell phone or tablet?
I would rather be the old, angry grandma because having a cell phone is a fairly large responsibility and you need to earn that responsibility rather than have it handed to you.
As for the elementary schoolers who are begging for smartphones: they come from a time when if one drops his phone, the phone breaks. I came from a time when if you dropped the phone, it broke the floor.
I started from the bottom of the indestructible Nokias and worked my way up to the delicate wonders of iPhones and Androids. God forbid that it took me longer than six years.