Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Why hasn't a sane smartphone for kids been released yet? Is everything so obvious with the problem of children using modern devices? We understand under the cut …

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Original material by IJ Dixon

My son is almost two years old, and his favorite toy is mine iPhone X. Wherever I can hide my phone: behind soft toys, between books, in pots of flowers. He finds him every time and crawls towards me, clutching the phone in the pen, and plaintively asks me to turn on his favorite cartoon on YouTube. In case of refusal, he flops to the floor and whimpers. It could have been worse, there was 'Gangnam Style' instead of a cartoon that month.

Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended restricting children under two years of age from interacting with any screens, including televisions, tablets, or phones. We, as parents, broke this rule long ago. I don't remember when we first gave the baby iPhone, but over the past few months we have watched with horror as our son developed a full-fledged addiction to phones, long before he got his own.

Over the past decade, many letters have been written about the great controversy surrounding gadgets: how often should we allow our children to spend time face-to-face with the screen, at what age? In October 2018, the New York Times published an article describing the relationship between children and devices in rather gloomy tones. In the material, a representative Facebook was quoted, according to which the devil is in our devices.

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

After reading the article, we switched to 'panic' mode and introduced a rule that no one from the household or guests should give the child a phone. For a while, it turned out to rein in the 'devil'. And yet, I understand that the time will come to accept the inevitable and buy my son his first phone. This prospect makes me nervous.

Many adults would agree that buying a phone for a child is an integral part of the responsibilities of a responsible parent today.

According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 73% of children aged 13 to 17 have their own phone. And according to Nielsen, for 2017, 45% of children aged 10 to 12 had their own SIM card with a tariff plan. Stephen Balkam, CEO of the IT-backed nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI, literally the Family Online Safety Institute), says children in 'connected' families (with more than three devices) get their first tablet at 5.5 years of age. and the first phone is at 7.

Today, many parents “put their gadgets in the hands of their children as soon as they can hold them,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech, a book on parenting the digital generation. But when it comes to what kind of phone to buy for a child, there are practically no options on the market: there have never been any iPhone for children. Children are mostly content with their parents' second-hand smartphones, which are responsible for setting the necessary parental controls on them.

So why hasn't Silicon Valley released a successful device for kids? And if released, what would such a smartphone look like?

While parents are often ashamed of using gadgets to distract children or using devices as a way of supervising, many adults would agree that buying a phone for a child is an integral part of today's responsible parent's responsibilities. “The main arguments I hear from parents are that we want a way to communicate with children (and so they can contact us) and a way to track them using GPS,” says Balkam.

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Ideally, a child's smartphone should have the maximum level of protection against young talents: 'maybe you need some way to exchange messages in an emergency, at school or outside, not to allow them to turn off their GPS or delete messages,' muses Joshua Cole, father three and the owner of the consulting firm One World Partners. His 11 year old daughter uses iPhone 7 Plus. Others suggest that the device should be disconnected from social media. “The usual parenting position is' No photos and no internet! ', Which we hear a lot,' says Joe Hollier, co-owner of Light, a Brooklyn startup. Without a camera or internet connection, children cannot take selfies or use social media, these are two activities that parents desperately want to control.

While tablets are successfully marketed as solutions for kids (Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition and Samsung Galaxy Tab E Lite Kids Edition), efforts to develop children's smartphones have almost always ended in failure. John Biggs, a father of two and author of articles for TechCrunch, is rather meticulous about the situation: “I've seen a lot of these smartphones and they are all bullshit.”

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

In 2014, children's gadgets company KD Interactive released Android the Kurio smartphone. It was designed to 'work and look like an' adult 'smartphone, while having security and time-limiting features to anticipate all situations,' 'Tracy Devine, director of marketing and licensing at KD UK, told New Atlas. . The device was faceless, but it had everything a worried parent could wish for: built-in blocking of 450 million sites, the ability to remotely view messages and call logs, time limits for using applications, and long before such features appeared in Apple. It even had an 'emergency' form that included the child's blood type and allergy information. And in 2017, VTech, a Hong Kong-based toy company, introduced KidiBuzz, a smartphone for kids ages 4 to 9 that allows kids to send and receive messages, photos and voice recordings.

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Kurio was a huge flop: KD Interactive ditched the smartphone less than a year after it hit the market. 'The device was expensive to manufacture, but since it was not tied to a brand, it was impossible to sell it at an affordable price … It was not a device from Apple or Samsung, but representatives of the target age group (children of teenagers and preteen) are very sensitive about brand and appearance ', – such a comment was given by the representative of the company in his email. Meanwhile, KidiBuzz has 33% negative reviews with one star on Amazon.

Part of the problem with smartphones for children is functionality: many such devices exist within the blurred boundaries between toy and work tool. For example, KidiBuzz offers features like games and apps, but doesn't even allow the user to make calls. Parents looking at Amazon for 'smartphones for kids' might stumble upon dozens of toy phones. That is, the devices are visually similar to phones, but in reality they are just toys with different ringtones and flashing lights.

Another hurdle is the fact that there is a built-in 'expiration date' for 'baby' products. “There is not much activity in the field of technology for children because this segment cannot always be reduced to a certain scale of sales,” said Tuong Nguyen, chief analyst at the consulting company Gartner. 'We are talking about a very small segment: children from 4 to 8 or from 8 to 12 years old. And it's potentially even smaller, because at a certain age children don't need a 'special device'. They want the gadget you use. '

David Weissman, Verizon spokesperson: “The reality is that the devices people want to use come from big manufacturers. So why create something custom made in a single model format when you can take a design from any manufacturer and use a parental control app on it? '

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Yet there is a great deal of concern about giving growing children access to devices that addictiveness to adults. There is a growing body of research that links children's long-term use of gadgets with depression, lack of sleep, and delayed speech development. All of this has pushed several entrepreneurs to create alternative solutions for children.

Here is what Hollier says in the context of the main problem with giving iPhone to children: “How addictive, sleek it is. 'What should I do? I download the application. I will open the Internet. ' The phone and its user experience are inseparable. I can feel it with my phone as an example. A very powerful thing. '

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

Hollier is the co-founder of Light Phone, a device marketed as anti – iPhone. In the first generation of Light Phone, minimal scenarios were assumed: calls and essentially everything. In the upcoming Light Phone 2, users will be able to send messages and more. And this is just one of the contributors to the movement to create minimalist, 'stupid' phones that has sprung up from the growing concern about smartphone addiction.

Even if the device is not intended to be used by children, parents are very interested in Light Phone. Hollier: “Parents are struggling with a dilemma: they need a phone to contact their child in case of anything, but they are seriously intimidated by Snapchat.”

Children are small people and I prefer to respect them, especially when it comes to technology.

The Jitterbug with its large screen and large keyboard is another example of a 'stupid' phone that has been called a good option for kids, even if it was originally designed for an older audience. Jitterbug can make, send and receive messages and for less than $ 50 for a clamshell device, it beats Light Phone 2, which has not yet started shipping to customers, but which now costs about $ 300.

Some manufacturers are bypassing phones as such in trying to enter the wearable electronics market. For example, Verizon's GizmoWatch allows parents to track the location of their children and issues a notification if they go outside a set radius. They also allow kids to text and call up to 10 people from a pre-configured list. This will allow parents to stay in touch with their children through their smartphone.

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

The Relay is technically not a wearable device (although it can be attached to clothing with a carabiner-like device), but rather a walkie-talkie-like gadget from Republic Wireless. This device is also intended for children, and also represents a compromise option for not very tech-savvy parents who care about how much time their child spends behind the screen, but do not want to understand the complexities of parental control applications. Chris Cheng, CEO of Republic Wireless: “You can't watch a bad YouTube video or find anything obscene with the Relay, because it doesn't have a screen.”

But devices like the Relay and the GizmoWatch look exactly like they were meant to be: as products for children. And this is where Nguyen sees the problem: 'There is always potential in wearable electronics, but I would not argue that this segment will be a hit. The demand compared to alternative solutions is such that the impact on the market remains rather limited: I can buy my child a watch that he may not wear, but I can buy a phone. ' Taylor is also skeptical. He believes that “smartwatches” will not be able to replace the phone for children. They need more. They are constantly bombarded with messages, they need to be constantly online. This is the world they grow up in. '

In the absence of better alternatives, parents most often give their children their used iPhone or Android devices or buy a new smartphone that still costs several hundred dollars. “There is a certain comfort zone in this, because we, as parents, have already used this device,” says Heather Brewer, author and illustrator who bought iPhone for kids and uses parental controls from Apple. “Giving our kids our old phones helps save money, and parental controls work pretty well.” Biggs, who bought both kids at iPhone e, agrees: 'Kids are not special animals that need special tools and in particular special phones. They are small people and I prefer to respect them, especially when it comes to technology.

Children and gadgets: is it ok or not?

And instead of creating new products, manufacturers started adding features to their adult products to make them more appealing to kids. iOS 12 has a built-in Screen Time feature that allows you to set specific time limits for individual applications and track how much time children spend on their phones. Google introduced the Google Family Link application, thanks to which parents can track the time spent 'on the screen' and remotely block devices if children are too immersed in the game.

These software workarounds aren't perfect – kids are rumored to easily hack Screen Time by adjusting the time settings on devices – but they are a fact of recognition that kids by a certain age start wanting what most people use. And everyone uses either iPhone or Android, and many will not be satisfied with less.

Ultimately, though, parental concerns about which device to buy for their child can be a way of projecting their own concerns about their complicated smartphone relationship. The answer to the problem lies not in choosing the right device for children, but in curbing their own impulses, especially as researchers say that parents who are too busy with devices cause behavioral problems in children.

“Children do what you do, not what you tell them to do,” says Balkam. “You have to show them a model of behavior, including in the digital field.” A Common Sense Media study (2016) found that while 78 percent of parents believed they were developing healthy phone use habits in their children, they themselves spent an average of nine hours a day in front of the screen, much more than children.

Recently I realized that I spend more time flipping through mail or Twitter than with my son playing next to him on the floor, and that the problem is not in devices that destroy our fragile minds. The reason is that my brain is already destroyed. Therefore, now we, as parents, try not to use the phone in front of our son. And not because the devil lives in my iPhone, but because a little 'devil' lives in me to some extent.

Original material by IJ Dixon

There is nothing easier than letting a capricious child watch another cartoon from the phone. We can observe this example around almost every day, personally to me it is not very pleasant and understandable, apparently, until I myself become a father. Will I let my kids use gadgets? Yes, but not right away, let them first get acquainted with the real world, the 'digital' will always have time to enter their life. I would not immediately give the kids huge phones, vision will definitely not benefit from this, and there are a lot of healthier and more useful activities for the development and ways to entertain the baby.

The material shows a problem that has not yet been solved on a mass level, so everyone is trying to determine the optimal way out for themselves, of course, if in fact they consider the issue to be serious. Of course, we and our parents are not familiar with this problem, so it is better to decide on a solution in advance. Even if the industry does not want to release sane smartphones for children yet, I am sure that a thinking person will be able to build communication between his child and a gadget without harm to his health and development in the modern digital environment.

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