The show "Dora the Explorer" has been a fan favorite for many children throughout the past decade. Dora has embarked on exciting and exotic adventures with kids everywhere and she has taught them some Spanish along the way. Now, our favorite Latina adventurer is back with a brand new adventure: "Dora the Explorer: Into the City."
On this show, Dora is older (10-years-old to be exact) and has some brand new pals to join in on her adventures in the city. Dora now uses some high-tech gadgets, including a smartphone, during her adventures. While she used to turn to her trusty map when going out and about, she now relies on a map app to help her with her travels.
Perhaps these new changes to our beloved Dora and the additions of plenty of other shows with tween characters sporting phones are simply a means of keeping up with the times. Although these shows might encourage more kids to ask parents for their first cell phones, the question ultimately becomes: is this a bad thing? Let's take a look at some of the risks and benefits that accompany giving a child their first phone and discuss how you can get the best of both worlds.
First, here are some statistics displaying how many kids and tweens have cell phones currently:
About six out of ten parents in the United States have provided their "tweenager (child between the ages of 9 and 12)" with a cell phone.
A National Consumers League survey concluded that about 84% of parents provided their tween with a cell phone for safety reasons.
Around 72% of parents reported that they gave their tween a cell phone to help them keep track of after school activities.
Of all the parents who gave their child a cell phone, about 89% of parents have no buyer's remorse.
The subject of first cell phones is bound to come up when your children begin middle school (and, most likely, even sooner than that). Children are seeing their favorite television show characters using cell phones, and they are going to want to emulate those characters.
There are an array of common concerns parents have when giving their child a cell phone. Obviously, a variety of unfortunate things can happen. Kids can break or lose the phone, costing you a bundle and making you regret giving them something so costly in the first place. Inexperienced smartphone users can also easily get involved in any number of digital dangers including, but not limited to, cyberbullying, sexting contact with online predators, and identity theft.
Despite all of the terrible things that can arise from a tween using a cell phone, there are many potential benefits as well. Going back to the survey, giving a child a cell phone for safety purposes is a great reason for your child to have a phone with them. If you are late picking up your child, you can call them on the phone and let them know. Also, if your child had a question while at an activity or at a friend's house, they can easily call you.
Times are definitely a-changing and relying on a cell phone is a part of these new times. Giving your child their first cell phone may help them keep up with friends. There is also a huge marketplace for educational apps, physical fitness apps, and apps that are generally positive for adolescent development.
How to Reap the Benefits and Minimize the Risks
Although there are many dangerous apps that can be used by teens and a few ways kids can get tricky hiding them, there are a plethora of great ways parent can enlist the use of parental controls on phones. There are also a variety of Internet Security apps available in the marketplace.
Another way parents can rest easy when taking this step is by enlisting the use of a tool like uKnowKids. The service enables parents to keep tabs on their kids' social media and texting activities to ensure that they're steering clear of digital dangers. Just as you don't give your teens car keys until they know how to drive, services like uKnowKids can arm parents with the ability to guide kids into the digital realm.
With the continued integration of the technology era into pop culture, it's likely that we'll be seeing more and more characters from cartoons like Dora the Explorer: Into the City featuring smartphones and other modern tech. While this will no doubt have a few kids asking for a phone sooner than they might have been had these characters been tech-free, there may not be a huge downside to this pressure as parental controls and tools continue to strengthen.
If you are worried about purchasing a cell phone for your child, keep this in mind: for every potential digital danger out there, there are a multitude of resources available and measures to take that can help prepare you to stove off the risk.
Learn more on the topic of first phones in Should You Give Your Child a Smartphone: How Young is Too Young?