” Myis all my friends have one! » The argument brandished by the schoolboy to get the phone of his dreams is not necessarily outrageous, since obtaining the first smartphone in France is around 10 years old. If the counter-argument imposes itself on the well-rehearsed parent (“What if all your friends eat dog poop, so do you?” »), it will not cut, at one time or another, to the inevitable question: should you give a mobile phone to your child and if so, when?
To do what ?
Founder of the Observatory of parenting and digital education (Open), Thomas Rohmer is reluctant to recommend a specific age to parents: “It depends a lot on the composition of the family, the maturity of the child…” To the question of “when?” “, this expert in digital education prefers that of” what for? “. If it is just a question of being able to reach the child, for example because he is going to karate alone, or his parents are separated, a simple mobile phone can do the trick… Because the smartphone, Thomas Rohmer reminds us , is a “powerful tool” which provides access to the Internet, where the“we can do great things, but also big stupid things”.
→ INVESTIGATION. How young people find their bearings in “the information chaos”
A recent study, carried out for Open and the National Union of Family Associations (1), underlines that parents and children identify the ambivalence of the tool. For those surveyed, digital technology entertains, opens up knowledge, arouses curiosity, maintains family and friendly ties… but it also exposes people to addiction, cyberbullying, pornography… Thus, 40% of children questioned say they have been confronted with shocking content, while 31% of parents believe their children have been exposed.
“We must rely on dialogue and trust”
The law now requiring the pre-installation of a parental control device on connected devices will no doubt contribute to allowing young Internet users to benefit more from the positive aspects of digital technology. “But children quickly know how to circumvent this kind of barrier, observes Julien, father of two college students. It is better to rely on dialogue and trust. »
→ TESTIMONIALS. Parental control: “He will understand one day that it is for his own good”
And it is there, sometimes, that the shoe pinches… The study underlines a significant discrepancy between the representations of the parents and the practices of the children. Concerning 7-10 year olds, parents greatly underestimate the daily time spent on the smartphone (37 minutes according to them, 1 hour 26 minutes according to the children), as well as the activities practiced. For example, 74% of 7-10 year olds say they watch films on the Internet, when 37% of parents think so.
Adults also minimize the viewing of online series, the use of social networks, video games, but also occupations usually more valued by parents, such as reading books on the Internet or listening to podcasts. A lack of knowledge linked in particular to the fact that many children are alone in front of the screen, when 83% of parents consider that digital makes it easy to occupy them. This figure was 72% at the start of 2020 (2). It reflects the impact of a health crisis that has seen all digital uses explode, and forced a number of adults to work while looking after their children…
moments of sharing
Nevertheless. The founder of the Open notes a “glaring lack of interest in children’s digital practices. Except to play killjoys! “. Thomas Rohmer encourages parents to take an interest in their offspring’s favorite YouTube channels, video games… “The other day, a father told me that he didn’t have twenty minutes to sit next to his son to watch him play Fortnite. In this case, he would have done better to take a goldfish! he shouts. Yes, these are constraints, yes, it takes time, but we owe it to our children! »
→ MAINTENANCE. “Adolescents first use screens to decompress”
The entry of a smartphone into the daily life of a child can give the opportunity for moments of sharing, education too. Julien takes the time to prepare with his daughter for the arrival of the famous telephone. “We discuss together the time of use, the rules to be defined, but also the protection of personal data or the environmental impact of digital technology”, he lists.
Entrusting a screen to one’s child ultimately questions parents about their educational practices, when it comes to dialogue, regulation, possibly refusing or prohibiting. On their digital uses, too, when 77% of parents (and 62% of children!) believe they spend too much time on screens. Equipped since CE1, Andréa watches cartoons on YouTube, and choreographies on TikTok. “But sometimes with the phone I get bored, notes the little brunette. So I stop, and I draw. » There is, indeed, for children and parents, a whole life outside the screen: drawing, reading, walking, playing, changing the water of the goldfish…