Costco member Bill Ratner, the
Los Angeles–based author of the book
Parenting for the Digital Age (Familius,
;;;;; not available at Costco), believes
that children should ;rst be given a low-er-tech cellphone for basic call-making
and call-taking purposes.
“Parents are too often giving smart-
phones to serve as electronic babysitters
for their children’s amusement,” Ratner
tells The Connection. “To give a child
any device with noneducational elec-
tronic games to play during o;-school
hours is a waste of their time.”
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates
recently said in an interview that
kids shouldn’t be permitted to own a
smartphone until they’re ;;—a rule he
enforces with his own children.
Reaching a verdict
Bex Lewis, the Manchester, UK–
based author of Raising Children in
a Digital Age (Lion Hudson, ;;;;;
not available at Costco), says a par-
ent’s choice should be based less
on age than stage—“what children
seem capable of doing, and if they’ve
demonstrated maturity,” she says.
“However, there should be agreements
about what [the phone is] used for and
what is and isn’t acceptable.”
Dr. Sarah Bauer, developmental
and behavioral pediatrician at Ann &
Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of
Chicago, agrees. “There is no perfect
age. It’s going to depend on the child’s
level of responsibility,” says Bauer, who
recommends limiting total screen
time on all devices to two hours daily to
prevent overstimulation. “Your child
needs to know that having a mobile
phone is a privilege, not a right.”
Ultimately, you can make a decision
after asking important questions, says
Costco member Dr. Megan Moreno,
lead author of the American Academy
of Pediatrics’ recent guidelines on
media use among schoolchildren and
adolescents (details at tinyurl.com/
“Can your child keep it safe? How
will you help your child avoid inappropriate information, cyberbullying or
interacting with strangers? What features and apps are acceptable or o;-lim-its? And can your child follow the rules,
even without you present?” Moreno
asks. “It’s critical to come up with rules
and expectations about ownership and
responsibility of the phone.” C
Erik J. Martin is a Chicago–area–
based freelance writer (martinspiration.
THE GREAT SMARTPHONE DEBATE
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 37
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