Every day I see younger and younger children with smart phones. As a parent of 4, who has made every mistake there is to make, my experiences could be helpful in deciding if a smart phone is right for your child. Every child is different, so there are a lot of factors to consider when you decide if your child is ready for a smart phone.
Why are you considering a smart phone for your child?
A good place to start is to ask yourself this simple question. Why do you want your child to have a smart phone? Is it because they nag you for one? Is it because their best friend has one? Do you consider it a social status symbol? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should probably not get the smart phone. You don’t want to over indulge your child or make them think that just because they want something is a reason to get it.
Is your child really ready for a smart phone?
It is my rule of thumb that most elementary school aged children do not need a cell phone at all. Even a non-smart phone is unnecessary at this age. Children this age should not be going anywhere without some level of adult supervision. If there are no trusted adults that your child could ask to use the phone to call you, they probably don’t need to be there in the first place. Middle School or Junior High is a good time to allow your child use of a regular prepaid cell phone to call you with when they are unsupervised, or for you to call them on when they are away from home. With a smart phone, comes big responsibility and even middle school children are not capable of making responsible decisions about internet usage. As stated previously, you never want to give your child the impression that they should have something just because they want it, or because someone else has it.
When is your child ready for a smart phone?
When they are old enough to pay for it, they are ready for a smart phone. I do not give this advice because I am too cheap to pay for my children’s smart phones. This is a good rule of thumb because until a child is old enough and responsible enough to juggle school and a job, they really are not responsible enough to make safe decisions with smart phone usage. A smart phone is a good incentive to get your teen away from the video games and out into the work force where they can develop new skills and experiences that will help them transition into adulthood. Let them see what it costs them to go over their data plan usage limits. Children at this level should be well prepared to make smart decisions about what applications are safe for them to use, and when something ‘feels’ wrong with very little guidance.
This probably isn’t the popular advice children and parents were looking for; but your child’s safety is always the top priority, and; no matter how much you think you know about your child’s phone activities, their peers are always one step ahead on how to pull the wool over your eyes. Be safe, the smart phone can wait.