by Andrew P. Doan, MPH, MD, PhD
We recommend delaying smartphones for kids until 14 years of age or high school. Before 14, there’s little need for a child to have access to a smartphone. During the high school years, more schools are using smartphone apps, and social status can be associated with owning a smartphone. Our son was teased and bullied for having a flip phone, but he was able to withstand the bullying and teasing because he was a track star during high school. Unfortunately, not all kids can endure the social pressures associated with not having a smartphone. The emotional trauma of forcing a flip phone on a child may do more harm than allowing the child to have a smartphone.
What’s the compromise? Your family may consider giving your children highly restricted, locked-down iPhones. We use the security features on the iPhone to lock the phone down, remove the app store, and allow only certain apps. In particular, we don’t recommend social media apps and online games on smartphones because, according to the FBI, there are nearly 1 million online predators. Guard your parental protection password. Without the password, your kids will not be able to hack into the iPhone to install unwanted apps and games. The FBI couldn’t hack into the iPhone, so it is unlikely that your child can.
You should also consider subscribing to a monitoring service, like Bark. Bark’s dashboard proactively monitors text messages, YouTube, emails, and 30+ different social networks for potential safety concerns, so busy parents can save time and gain peace of mind.
Here is a video overview of the Bark app. https://youtu.be/hfXLBLLUfmQ
Bark App website: https://www.bark.us/
Apple website on using parental controls: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304