The question of when to give your child a cell phone is a common dilemma for today’s parents. There are several good reasons for a child to have a smartphone. A smartphone gives you the ability to communicate with your child at any time, it can be used as a classroom or educational aid, and it allows your children to socialize with their friends in a way that’s common to their generation.
But there are also downsides – the use of smartphones and other devices is associated with several negative side effects, including disrupted sleep, sore wrists, and shorter attention spans. So, should you delay giving your child a smartphone, or are they ready for one?
There’s No Magic Age
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as saying that children are old enough to have a cell phone at the age of 10, or 12, or 15. There is no one right age at which a child is ready to benefit from the positive effects of having a smartphone and immune to the negative effects.
You’ll need to make your own decision about whether or not your child is ready. One way to decide is to think about why you think your child needs to have a smartphone. A child who is going to come home from school and be alone for several hours before a parent returns might need a cell phone, especially if you don’t have a home phone because you rely solely on cell phones. A child who participates in many extracurricular activities that keep them away from home might also have need of a cell phone. A child who spends most of their time in the company of parents and other adults, and who stays close to home, may not.
Is Your Child Responsible?
Another question you should ask yourself when deciding if your child is ready to have a cell phone is whether or not your child is responsible enough to have one. One important aspect of this is the ability to self-regulate. If you frequently find yourself arguing with your child about when it’s time to turn off the television or a video game, and if they never seem inclined to stop playing or watching on their own, you’re probably going to have the same problems with a smartphone.
Of course, smartphones can be expensive, and you’ll also want to be sure that your child will take care of the device. A child who frequently loses their jacket or leaves their lunchbox on the bus may not be ready for a smartphone just yet.
Can Your Child Follow the Rules?
Even if you think your child is ready, it’s important to have a frank conversation before buying a cell phone for your child. You should discuss what the rules are going to be if your child gets a cell phone, and decide whether or not your child will be able to follow the rules that you set.
For example, you might decide that your child shouldn’t use their smartphone in their bedroom, or after a certain time of night to ensure that they get enough sleep. If your child seems resistant to following that rule, they may not be ready.
If you do decide to get your child a smartphone, keeping track of how they’re using it should be part of your ongoing efforts to protect your child from some of the negative effects of smartphone use. Parental monitoring software can help you ensure that your child is following the rules and using their phone safely. To find out how it works, get our free trial.