Many kids assume that once they reach the tween years and enter middle school, they will be given a smartphone. However, parenting experts caution that just because your child is entering middle school, it does not mean he is ready for the responsibility of a smartphone.
What to consider before giving your child his first smartphone
The peer pressure can seem overwhelming to your child and you may desire the convenience of being able to contact your child at all times and track his location. However,v there are a few risks to consider before providing your child with a smartphone.
- Does your child have the maturity to care for a smartphone and avoid losing or damaging it? You do not want to find yourself constantly hunting down his phone or having to replace an expensive smartphone that was stolen when your child accidentally left it someplace. If your child has difficulty keeping track of his school backpack or his equipment bag for sports practice, imagine your dismay when he misplaces his backpack or his bag and his smartphone is inside it.
- Is your child mature enough to follow good smartphone etiquette? For example, will he realize that sensitive conversations should be conducted face-to-face, not through texting or a video chat app?
- Many kids who desire a smartphone wish to use social media apps to stay in touch with friends. Is your child mature enough to know how to properly report any instances of cyberbullying that may occur? Does he understand that any comments or pictures placed online are there forever, even if he deletes them?
- Does your child already respect limits you put on screen time at home and the parental controls you have in place on smart TVs and computers, or does he regularly break the rules? If he does break the rules often, a smartphone may not be for him. If you are already having to constantly remind your child to stay off other devices, it is not a good idea to add a smartphone to the list of gadgets to monitor. The fun apps and the internet access available on smartphones make them a strong temptation to break screen time rules.
Is your child mature enough not to buy more apps or more purchases without permission from you?
An alternative to a smartphone
If you feel your child is not ready for the responsibility of a smartphone, but you need to be able to quickly get in touch with him, a smartwatch made for kids may be a good alternative. The parental controls built into smartwatches designed for kids allow parents to enter designated phone numbers into the watch. The watch will only make calls to and receive calls from those designated numbers. Also, children’s smartwatches allow parents to monitor their child’s location.
Keeping your child safe in the smartphone world
The parental controls can be a little tedious to install on Android smartphones and iPhones, but after they are implemented, they will allow you to restrict the apps your child can use and protect your family’s privacy. One example is Google’s Family Link app, which works on Android phones and on iPhones running iOS9 or higher. This free app allows parents to set parental controls on how much time your child spends on apps and monitor internet activity. Keeping your child safe online and helping him learn to regulate how much time he spends on smartphone apps makes installing parental controls worth the work. Google Family Link and other parental control apps can be downloaded from the phone’s App Store.