Is 4 years old too young to own a smartphone?

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TORONTO – When one father took to technology site Slashdot seeking advice on what smartphone he should buy for his 4-year-old son, it’s safe to assume he didn’t expect to be dubbed a bad parent by hundreds of commenters.

On Sunday, Slashdot user “blogologue” took to the technology site in hopes to remedy a simple issue – keeping in touch with his child who he is not able to see as often as he likes.

“The main reason for getting the phone is keeping in touch, and as a bonus it can function as a device for games and so on during allowed times. Are there any phones that are suitable for such use,” asked the user in his post.

Noting his child’s young age, the user noted that he would like to get a phone that has games, but includes the ability to have “limited, pre-defined functionality during certain periods of the day.”

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The post ignited a fury of responses from users outraged at the idea of handing a 4-year-old a smartphone – some even accusing the man of being a bad parent.

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“Really? His days are booked? All those board meetings are interfering with, you know, BEING A FOUR YEAR OLD,” wrote one user.

Another added, “Are you serious? The most ‘suitable’ phone for a 4 year old is one without a battery. Really, you need to focus on more important things for your child at that age.”

The post had garnered over 500 responses by Monday afternoon.

But some Slashdot users came to the father’s defense, pointing out that the user seemed like a good parent who was merely looking for a way to have a relationship with his child. Some offered alternatives to a smartphone – one user suggesting the man get his child an iPod touch, a device that would allow him to use video chat with the child.

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Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist, cautions that while the user’s reasoning appears to be heartfelt, handing a child of that age a smartphone has consequences.

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“His reasoning for doing this is noble, but at four years old the child should be with someone older who should facilitate that type of interaction,” cautioned Amitay.

Amitay also warned that handing a child a device in order to make phone calls and participate in video chats will give the child the expectation that they are to do most of their communication through a device and taking away from learning face-to-face communication skills.

“Having a kid use a phone sporadically is ok, otherwise kids should be playing with kids – that’s what they are supposed to do,” said Amitay.

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