The question of whether or not you should give your child a phone just got more complicated. Purchasing a phone for your child used to mean giving them some independence in that they could call and text others and maybe play a game on their phone’s tiny screen.
However, now it’s much more complex. Flip phones are pretty difficult to find, so giving your kid a phone means giving them a smartphone and all the distractions that come with it. A smartphone means 24/7 connectivity, opportunities for distraction, and possibly unsavory or dangerous activities.
This decision is completely individual. There’s no blanket answer for every parent. You must choose for yourself if your children is ready for the responsibility that comes with owning a smartphone by considering a number of factors.
Ask the Right Questions
Begin by asking yourself the important questions. It’s your first instinct to trust your child, but it’s better for you to be honest with your responses to these questions than trusting. Here are a few suggestions of questions that can get you closer to the right decision if answered honestly.
- Is a cell phone really necessary?
- Does your child really need it, or does he/she just want it?
- Will you child be responsible with viewing and sending responsibilities?
- What kinds of blocks and parental filters will you use?
- Who will be financially responsible for the phone?
- Will your child be able to pay for overages?
- What are the potential harms?
- What are the potential benefits?
Each of these questions will get you closer to an accurate response for your family. It will help to define the responsibilities that will be placed on your child when they have a smartphone in their possession.
Defining Age Appropriateness
For most parents, the primary reason they choose to give their child a smartphone is to give them the ability to stay in touch. If that was the only thing a smartphone did, it would be a simple choice. However, it’s not the only thing a smartphone does, and you’ll need to decide what age your child will be able to handle the pressures of a phone without getting addicted or getting involved with inappropriate behaviors.
It’s easier to determine the appropriateness of giving a cell phone when you have protections put in place. Blocks on inappropriate websites and parental controls on app downloads can give you peace of mind when your child isn’t home.
It’s also a good idea to look into apps that will time the use of other apps. One of the biggest fears parents are faced with when giving their kids a cell phone is that they’ll overuse it and become addicted to social media and games. Teenagers are now spending nine hours a day using media, according to a report, which can take away from precious social interactions, family time, and school responsibilities. Make sure you have a plan in place for monitoring their smartphone use.
Have a Serious Conversation with Kids First
Before you seriously think about purchasing a smartphone for any of your children, have a serious conversation with them first. Discuss the implications, risks, benefits, and responsibilities associated with owning a smartphone. This will give you an opportunity to not only assess whether or not your child is ready for one, but also provide an opportunity to lay some ground rules. If you and your child can’t agree during this conversation, it might be better to wait another year before taking the plunge.