How young is too young?

At work one day at a local pizza shop, I saw a family with two young elementary school-aged kids that came in to get food. A few minutes later some of their relatives walked in and they all ate lunch together. When they were finished eating and saying their goodbyes the two kids were standing there with their faces in their phones instead of giving their relatives a hug and saying goodbye. That seems like an odd thing to be writing about here. Not anything earth shattering, right? But after this experience, I started thinking a lot about phones and how young kids get their first phones earlier and earlier these days.

When I was in elementary school it was rare to see a kid younger than 12 having a cell phone. Now you see kids in 2nd and 3rd grade walking around with their own phones and having all social media platforms.

Giving kids phones when they aren’t old enough and mature enough is causing them to grow up faster than they have to. When given a phone, kids have access to all social media, free access to search for whatever they want on the internet, and they are able to watch movies and tv shows that they aren’t old enough for yet. Not only can kids access all sorts of things that could be damaging to their childhood, but they also are not given the chance to learn how to live without a phone. When I was in elementary school, every day after school I would play with my neighbor outside and enjoy being a kid without having to be exposed to the harsh social media world. I know for a fact that if I had a phone when I was in elementary school I would not have all those memories because I would have been inside on my phone all day instead of making real relationships with people.

Along with all those other costs of owning a cell phone too young, kids also struggle to learn social skills because they don’t have to have face-to-face conversations with people. “You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”

Parents are always complaining about how kids always have their faces in their phones but I think it is time to start looking at who is letting this happen. While in some cases it may be beneficial for kids to have a phone in case of emergency, there is a big difference between having a phone to call someone and having a phone to create a Snapchat and Instagram account as an elementary school kid.

Obviously, I am a high school kid and not a parent, so clearly it’s not my place to suggest I know what parenting is like. But, I do think young kids being buried in cell phones is a problem that has to begin somewhere. What is the real reason kids have a phone? Is it because it is a distraction and can easily keep kids occupied? Is it because parents are giving in to their kids because all of their friends have a phone? Before purchasing your child a cell phone you should really be asking yourself if they are mature enough to handle it. Most kids are not; they are still learning and developing, and having a phone could potentially change the whole course of their growth.

I think it’s time that we all pick our heads up and realize we are creating a generation full of people with their heads down.