"So your 5-Year-Old Doesn't Have a Smartphone?"
I was going through my Facebook feed this week when my eyes fell on a picture that one my Facebook friends had posted. It was a photo of her 5-year old daughter who had just opened a box containing a brand-new iphone 6. There I was in disbelief and shock. Right next to the photo, there was another photo of the same girl two years earlier receiving an iphone 5, so at the age of three.
Who is wrong here? Is it me, the narrow-minded almost 30-year old who was playing with barbies, Lego and Playmobil at the age of five or are these parents making a huge mistake? What would a 5-year-old be doing with a high-tech smartphone that lets you track the miles you ran, calculate your daily calorie intake, manage your online bank account, order pizza and check your work emails? Shouldn't this 5-year-old be playing in the mud, build sand castles, learn to ride a bike, learn to swim, climb trees or do puzzles? That was what I was my sister and I were doing when we were kids.
I do believe that such parents are preventing their kids from developing their motor skills. These kids who haven't even started 1st grade yet are being deprived of the kid world they deserve and transported into an adult world defined by technology and digitalization.
Haven't I failed as a parent if my 5-year-old kid knows how to surf the internet on a smartphone but has never seen a farm animal before? Haven't I failed as a parent if my 5-year-old thinks of smartphones when hearing the world Apple rather than fruits that give them iron, magnesium, unsaturated fats and Vitamin C?
When I was between five and nine, my parents took me to the doctor on various occasions because I had bumped my head while rollerskating, skinned my knee and fallen down the stairs. Being a child sure can be painful but childhood is a very important phase during which we develop a sense for balance, strengthen our immune system and simply have fun running around screaming at the top of our lungs with simply no worries at all.
There are numerous studies that show that an extreme use of smartphones, tablets, computers and laptops can cause anxiety, trigger depression and be a reason for lower levels of happiness. Why would we expose our children to those risks at the innocent age of five? The children of the 21st century will come into contact with technology so much earlier than my generation. They will be employed for at least 40 years until they retire. In that time, the use of technology will take up an essential part of their worklife which they cannot get around. 40 years plus 12 years of school education in which students nowadays are required to use technology to finish their assignments and hand in their homework. That's 52 years in which their life is closely linked to an extensive use of technology.
Why would we add the most precious first few years of a child's life to those 52 years, take away their childhood and ruin their mental and physical development?
I am not a parent yet and still have to face all of the challenges related to raising a child. I will certainly make mistakes and wrong decisions that affect my child, just like any other parent, but buying my toddler a smartphone will most definitely not be one of them.