“Mommy, can I have a phone for my birthday?” goes my 8-year old. “And it has to be a SMART phone.”

Somehow I knew this day would come. I just didn’t expect it to be this soon!

His rationale: it would be a lot more convenient and time saving for him to use his own phone to call me instead of having to climb four flights of steps up to the school’s general office.

“Well, I’ll give you a basic phone then. One with no data,” I told him. The husband reminded me that there was such a thing called “hub” where the child could easily hook up to the internet anyway through another friend’s phone. And so starts the friendly banter with the husband and son.

As we live in this digital age, the SMART phone has become a necessity which one can no longer live without. I once left home without my android. I spent the whole day with a feeling of unease. I felt disconnected. A part of me was missing. Has the SMART phone also become an essential tool for the new generation? Is it then right to deny it to them? One parent I spoke to said we need to expose children to these gadgets so that they will not lose out to their peers in terms of technology competency when they grow up. It is also a part of fitting in, being cool and so that they will not feel left out, especially when most of their friends have SMART phones.

Undoubtedly, giving your child a Smart Phone has its benefits. You can reach him anytime, anywhere. Some parents may also feel more secure knowing that their child is just a phone call away. It is also a lot more convenient as you can communicate with your child between drop-offs and pick-ups.

I know of parents who say they will delay giving their child a phone for as long as it takes. The thought of your child accessing the internet unsupervised, give rise to parental fears to the dangers of the internet.I had a friend who once received a shocking $400 phone bill 2 months after gifting her son a smart phone.There is also the threat of cyber bullying, sexual predators and inappropriate content like pornography which may pop up while your child is surfing.

My concern stems more from worrying about my son having too much screen time and becoming addicted to gaming. In the past, children were full of imagination and created their own form of play that didn’t require any cost. They would rather stare at the screen and play mine craft or tweet instead of cycling or playing board games. This limits imaginative play and motor development. And social development as well.

We were having dinner at a restaurant over the weekend. A family of four was sitting at a table beside us. Everyone on that table was staring at their phones throughout the entire meal. Where has the family interaction and bonding time gone to? Perhaps they were all communicating through whatsapp.

“Mom, all my friends have SMART phones” he then emphasized. “Also, my time will be more efficiently used as we can play mine craft while I am waiting for you in school.” my son sheepishly says. In all innocence, the son has finally revealed his REAL reason for wanting a SMART phone.

I guess there is no hard and fast rule what age you should give your child a SMART phone. With the SMART phone becoming a lifestyle gadget and social norm, I don’t think I can hold off too long from giving him one.

Probably in a year or two when he is more mature and responsible. For now he can continue climbing those steps.