At what age should children start using a cell phone? This is what three teaching professionals think

The debate on the use of mobile phones by young people in Spain is open, especially after the latest high-profile cases of harassment.

The use of smartphones is fully widespread in society in Spain, and practically everyone has theirs, even many children. This is raising certain problems related to bullying and addiction, and is putting parents on alert about its use by the little ones.

In recent months, several chilling cases have come to light in which it has been discovered that some students have participated in messaging app groups with illegal content. There are already many parents who are in favor of prohibiting the use of these devices among the little ones. It is not a topic that is free of controversy , since there are many cases in which parents give them because they need to communicate in some way with their children while someone else takes care of them, among other cases.

 Necessity of law

Currently, Spain does not have national regulations that regulate the use of smartphones in schools and institutes. Recently, after events such as those that have taken place in different parts of the country, there are many voices calling for legislation in this regard. In this sense, there is quite a consensus, and the three professionals we have spoken with have the same opinion: there must be regulation.

Gredilla states that  “Right now it is a decision for each center and the autonomous communities. However, there has to be a consensus between parents and teachers about the risk of using mobile phones at an early age. We, as teachers, have to teach students, we can’t control who has it and who doesn’t. This emphasizes the active role that parents must take in the digital education of their little ones.

If each Autonomous Community does things its own way and there are several regulations in this sense, the system is weakened. There should be a law that regulates it equally for everyone. “We lack resources, of all kinds, for teachers and educational centers. There is much left to do,” says Mármol. On the other hand,  Tarriño, who also believes that there should be state regulation , maintains that “it is a distracting element that prevents the normal functioning and development of classroom routines, at the same time it decreases the number of relationships and social interactions between students and therefore Therefore, they develop fewer interpersonal skills”, so it is very positive that it is regulated.

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This, as the teachers comment, also clashes with the fact that students are increasingly asked for digital skills , and they see this as positive so that they grow up knowing how to use technology, but for this they must be taught and supervised, also at home.

Educate in its use

When talking about the age at which to give a cell phone to a minor, there is no consensus regarding a certain number of years , but there is a consensus that there must be a certain degree of maturity before doing so. You should not let yourself be carried away by social pressure. Professor Tarriño believes that ” giving a minor the responsibility of carrying a cell phone has more to do with the child’s level of maturation than with age in numerical terms itself.” This moment comes “when it does not require constant parental supervision or parental control applications so that it makes responsible use in a timely manner.” On the other hand, Rafael Mármol reports that, in his educational center, at 12 or 13 years old is usually when parents give them to him, after taking communion.

Pilar Gredilla maintains that teachers spend limited time with students, and control of the content of this device and its use should be carried out at home. The Secretary of Communication of the public education teachers’ union thinks that “the advance of technology cannot be stopped, it would be like putting doors on the countryside, but we must educate in the use of social networks and telephones to make it happen.” correct use”.

Here, Tarriño says  that it is also important to lead by example, without looking at the phone, when you are at the table eating, talking with your children, listening to them, being proactive in their maturation process and involving them in the daily routine. It is also important to think about what children use technology for, since being used to it does not mean that they are using it to learn. “I find it curious to hear from this generation that they are digital natives when my professional experience tells me the opposite. We have, unfortunately, children who can change videos on YouTube or navigate social networks autonomously, but who are not able to use Office to do work or independently use educational platforms such as Classroom or Meet,” the teacher reflects.

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According to Professor Mármol, the task of educating children in the use of technology cannot only fall to teachers, and it is necessary to raise awareness about use that does not entail danger or harassment. To this end, they also carry out some training with the students’ parents, who, in the end, tend to be the ones who spend the most hours with them, and who manage their use of technology.

What alternatives are there?

Although it may be prohibited in classrooms, due to various circumstances, there are parents who need to communicate with their children throughout the day, while they are away from home, so it is necessary for them that their children have a device that allow to speak. There are centers that are already taking measures to avoid the use of mobile phones in classrooms, unless it is for a specific activity. Rafael Mármol tells us that when classes start, they collect all the students’ cell phones in a box, guarded by the tutor , so that even if they take it to school or institute, it cannot be a distraction to learning during class time. class.

However, if it is completely prohibited to carry it, there are some devices that can replace the smartphone so that parents can communicate with their child when classes end. These are gadgets, like the  SaveFamily Iconic Plus , which is a smart watch that is specially designed to offer a safe experience to children. It includes applications like WhatsApp, but with strong parental control that means that the boy or girl cannot download or install an application without the consent of his or her father or mother.

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A good alternative, which is not seen so much in schools, can also be to give them a prepaid SIM card and a conventional telephone, not a smartphone. In this way, the minor will be able to call or receive calls from her parents, but without the possibility of accessing social networks or other Internet platforms. There are brands, such as the Spanish SPC, that continue to manufacture this type of mobile phones, which still have a certain market among elderly people who have not wanted to make the leap to smartphones. Among their main virtues are the fact that they have considerably more autonomy than smartphones, take up less space and can be less of a distraction.