It’s that time of year, and if you have kids, they’re probably already busily making their Christmas list… And if you have a tween or young teenager who doesn’t have one yet, it’s a good bet that at least one of the items on their list is a smartphone. There are a lot of reasons that a tween might want a smartphone, some practical and some not. As a parent, it’s your job to figure out whether or not your child is ready for that smartphone. Here are some things you should consider before making your decision.
What Age Is The Right Age?
As most parents know, no two kids are alike, and some kids are ready for certain privileges and responsibilities before others. That applies to everything from when your child can stay home alone to when they’re ready for a pet, and it’s no surprise that it applies to cell phones too. There is no one right age to let a child have a smartphone, and a lot depends on the characteristics of your individual kid.
While there’s no one right age, experts do say that the longer you can wait, the better. The older your child is, the better their impulse control is going to be and the more likely they are to refrain from potentially harmful online behaviors. What’s more, the younger your children are when they’re allowed the kind of unfettered access to the internet that a smartphone provides, the more risk they’re at for developing the kind of habits that lead to internet addiction.
The Positive Side
It’s worth mentioning that there are definite upsides to allowing your child to have a smartphone. Without a smartphone or other mobile device, like a tablet, your child won’t have access to educational apps that can help them study and learn. Because so many kids today have smartphones, some schools and teachers are integrating these apps into their curriculum, or at least recommending them as study aids. And digital literacy is in itself an important skill that will help your child succeed as an adult. Without access to the technology that their peers are using, your child may be somewhat behind.
Smartphones also provide an important social outlet for today’s kids. The phone is a primary method of communication of teens and tweens, and your tween may feel left out socially without one. That’s not a small thing — social isolation can be very upsetting for a child at that age.
How To Tell If Your Child Is Ready
There are signs you can look for that can help you determine whether or not your child is ready for a smartphone. Are they responsible with their possessions? This is a good sign that you won’t need to replace a broken or lost phone frequently. Can they resist temptation or pressure to behave inappropriately? You want to be sure that they won’t try to use the phone when they shouldn’t, like during class (unless it’s allowed).
If you decide to go ahead and purchase a smartphone for your child, make sure that you set some boundaries before turning them loose with it. You should always have the password to the phone and to any password-protected sites or apps your child uses. You should also consider installing parental monitoring software on your child’s phone, so that you can keep a close eye on their activity. For more information about protecting your child while they use the internet, get our free trial.