Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?
They are the words no parent wants to hear until their kids are old enough to drive a car; yet most of our children ask as soon as they get a Minecraft account: “Can I have a smartphone?”
Like every other milestone we’ve reached with equal parts love and uncertainty, the great smartphone dilemma is one all of us parents will face — more likely sooner than later.
Not only will we have to make serious decisions that will affect our children’s future, we’ll have to deal with things like setting up their first device the right way and finding the safest phones for our kids without spending a fortune.
So, if they’re already asking and you’ve begun feeling the heat, here are a few tips to guide you over the smartphone hump.
Freedoms and Risks
It will start with your 5th grader telling you all of his friends have phones. In fact, half of them do, according to NPR1.
On one hand, no parent wants to stop their kids from socializing. And they certainly don’t want them to be stranded somewhere without any way of getting in touch. At the same time, however, we don’t want to see our little ones clicking and swiping and watching other people play video games all day — or getting depressed, addicted,2 or exposing themselves to online predators. All of these risks are real for kiddos with smartphones.
Do the freedoms of owning a phone at that age outweigh the risks? In the end, that depends on your child. But teaching and modeling healthy smartphone habits early can go a long way.
Healthy Smartphone Habits
There are plenty of things you should know before giving your child their first smartphone. Modeling good behavior is at the top of the list. If you don’t want them to be glued to their phones, it’s best not to be glued to yours. If limiting screen time is a must, consider limiting yours.
We also recommend:
- Giving the “scams and predators” talk early. As soon as they’re old enough to hold a tablet, start teaching them not to respond to messages from people they don’t know and to avoid clicking on links that look suspicious.
- Setting up parental controls whether you’re on an Apple or Google device. This will help children establish healthy digital routines and wean them off the notion that screen time is similar to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Finally, let’s face it: besides being potentially dangerous for our children’s development and mental health, smartphones can be expensive. Once you commit to that smartphone, you’ll have another monthly phone bill to pay, plus hundreds of dollars for the latest product.
If holding off is still the best option for your child, consider a smartwatch with a call function. You’ll have a monthly bill to pay, but you won’t have to worry about TikTok marathons. You can also consider a “dumb” phone (a lot cheaper), or a tablet, which lets them socialize but limits their screen time to the house.
Thankfully, there are options for just about everyone. It just takes a little research to find the right path. And from the looks of it, you’re on the right path.