Telephone among children and adolescents: parents worry, “everything revolves around that in the schoolyard”

Telephone among children and adolescents: parents worry, “everything revolves around that in the schoolyard”

On average, French people have their first phone at 9 years and 9 months. UNSPLASH ILLUSTRATION. -Paul Hanaoka

On April 30, 2024, experts published an alarming report on the use of screens by young people. Disconnect with reality, security breach, violent images… So many risks that push parents to ask themselves: "Should I give my child a phone ?"

Social networks are a"risk factor" for depression or anxiety, "the level of exposure" of children with pornographic content is "alarming" and the hyperconnection experienced by minors could have consequences for the future "of our society, our civilization". The tone is set. Faced with the expert report commissioned by the President, parents have reason to worry.

In the privacy of families, sheltered from scientific scrutiny or sanitized analyses, many adults fear for health, development and well-being of their offspring. Because between the ages of 8 and 16, one question torments them all: "Dad, mom, can I have a telephone." Gone is the innocence of a disconnected life, here they are plunged into the great pixel bath.

Foot in the door

Alexandra lives with her partner and her two daughters in Fontanès, in Gard. The oldest is 9 years old. The idea came to her from her grandparents three years ago, who were enthusiastic about the idea of ​​giving her her first smartphone. For them, it was an opportunity to interact more with their little daughter. For his mother, a sword of Damocles 2.0. As the years went by, the subject of the telephone became prevalent everywhere: "Boys and girlfriends had their own cell phones themselves", " they set up WhatsApp groups, “It's all about that in the schoolyard. And I'm not talking about the dances they learn among themselves, seen on TikTok!"

The little girl's parents are clinging: "It seemed inevitable to us that she would have one for college, where she would be bigger, more mature, more independent." At the start of the year, the subject comes up for the umpteenth time. They don't have a landline at home, and the question arises of giving her a smartphone so that she can spend an hour or two without her parents at home from time to time. And now, on Thursdays, she comes home from school alone, an argument that works in favor of acquiring the small digital box.

Finally, Alexandra "abdicates" : "We gave him an old generation cell phone and opened a line at 2 euros per month with restrictive conditions  : no social network, only calls and SMS to family, no exchange of numbers with friends, the cell phone stays at home, integration of parental controls and 2 hours of use per day maximum."

"After four months, she has already exchanged numbers with four friends, she texts too often for my liking , we fell into the trap, like all school parents a priori." Guided by the nostalgia of digital innocence, the mother regrets: "I still say that she’s too young and that it’s useless at that age."


When the parents of 18-year-old Louise gave her her first cell phone, she was in 4th grade. At thirteen, she found herself thrown into the deep end: "I did not have parental control, or prohibitions from having my phone in my room, or at school." The daughter of divorced parents, she travels 300 kilometers by train two weekends a month to see her father. The cell phone is essential to reassure them.

"At the beginning, I was on my phone a lot, I wanted to discover. But I quickly set limits for myself, I know that you can quickly become addicted. I haven't flaunted my life, I know people don't care. With my friends, it's the same, they know that you shouldn't show everything, that people don't have to be aware of everything you do, explains the young adult.

In middle school, then in high school, no prevention. It was she, by observing abuses such as harassment and the sharing of intimate photos, who educated herself: "We hear a lot talking about cyberbullying, a weird guy contacted me one day… But in these cases I block."

Nurtured with social networks like all young people of her age, Louise, who aspires to study psychology in Montpellier, took advantage of the information shared online to become better aware of the abuses it could cause . Neither a sword of Damocles nor a Pandora's box, the telephone with which she grew up has become a means of obtaining information and communicating, harmless as long as it is well mastered.

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