Is it proper to give your children a phone/smartphone?
If so, what age makes the most sense?
The answer is mixed. It all depends upon the circumstances. The phone of forty years ago was just what it was originally intended to be, a means of two people [or more with a speaker enhancement] communicating with each other.
The development of cell phones was initially meant to do much the same but in a portable wireless manner. My earliest version of such a phone was a bulky car phone, which was great except that there were so many deaf zones. Next came the flip phone, it was very basic but you also had the ability to text.
Then came the androids, blackberries and iphones and there was a major leap as now everyone has a mini television, movie theatre, game device all in the palm of his/her hand. And that is the danger. We must ask: are parents able to monitor what their children are watching 24/6? The answer for the most part is an unequivocal no.
Today, many of the yeshivos and girls’ schools insist that as soon as a student comes to school, they must surrender their phone to the school administration with it being returned only for their way home. This, indeed, is a reasonable rule that should be satisfactory to parent, teacher- principal and student alike
On the other hand we live in dangerous times, where we wish to keep our children safe and a cellphone definitely supports that need. But while the cellphone might save them from physical danger, it might also cause them great spiritual harm.
My personal suggestions, if at all possible, restrict availability to a simple flip phone that only has basic phone and texting services. Probably a child of eight or nine years old would be sufficiently responsible to handle such a rather simple phone. Why place your children in harm’s way by placing a dangerous stumbling block in their path by giving them any of the more enhanced smartphones.
– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com and Rabbi@igud.us.
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In my lifetime I have not seen a threat that is so imminent and a danger that looms so large as a child being exposed to the internet. The number of issues, problems, troubles, in the world today is alarming; the lack of mental health, the number of social morals being destroyed and being broken down and propagated as normalcy. The amount of people, issues, and troubles that are regularly presented in a way to make them appealing is frightening, and the decay to society is rapid.
As an adult, when we go on the internet, we view it as strange and we are able to discern the Tik Tok videos and the Instagram videos that are wild and out of touch with morality, sanity or human decency. The problem is children do not have that sense of discernment. A child growing up in that world views it as normal, a child growing up in that world views it as that’s what’s done, and the danger to exposing a child to an unfiltered internet is beyond description.
I can’t say this in strong enough terms and I can’t stress it enough – parents have to do whatever they can to delay their children from having a smartphone, keep them away from unfiltered internet access. This is by far the greatest danger I have ever seen in my lifetime. For most of us, it should be one of the most frightening things, even the thought of having a child being exposed to it. Under certain circumstances, unfortunately, it may be necessary, but as responsible caring parents we have to do whatever we can to protect our children, and the first line of defense is to keep them away from anything that is so damaging and destructive to them in so many ways.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).
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The propriety of giving our children a phone is very different than giving our children a smartphone. Factors in determining when to give a child a phone include his or her maturity level, ability to follow rules and sense of responsibility, and the particular needs of the family. That age could be anywhere from 10-14, depending on one’s community.
The more complicated question is whether we should give our children a smartphone at all or at a young age. We are all aware that the internet can provide us with many benefits such as access to many resources, including those that our children may need for school. We are also all aware of the danger of the internet, both in terms of inappropriate websites that are contrary to Torah values and the addictive nature of the internet.
Therefore, we first must consider the cultural context in which we live. If all of our children’s friends have a smartphone, then there might be negative consequences if we do not allow our children to have one. Additionally, if you want to parent your child to live in a world where he or she will use a smartphone as an adult, then the question that parents need to address more is not the exact age when to give the child a smartphone (e.g., around bar/bat mitzvah or entering high school), but how to best educate a child in the use of a smartphone. Education includes setting up enforceable rules and expectations that both you are your child can agree upon, teaching them about cyberbullying, using appropriate filters for the phones and modeling appropriate smartphone behavior by not using your own phone when doing so may be seen as inappropriate.
– Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.