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Should You Buy Your Kid a Smartphone?

by on February 02, 2011
in Family and Parenting, Phones and Mobile, Phone Accessories, Cell Phones, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, Kids, Guides & Reviews

Kid using a cell phoneMy 9-year-old daughter has been asking for a cell phone for three years. It will be a few more before she gets her wish, but each time she asks, I think about what type of device I would get for her. Would it be a regular phone, with calling and texting, or a smart phone? I'm going with a smart phone.

With my daughter, one of the most important things a smart phone could do for her is to keep her organized. All smart phones come with a calendar. So she'd be able to schedule her longer-term homework assignments and after-school activities. I'd be able to send doctor's appointments and family activities to her phone and they'd appear on her calendar.

Another feature that appeals to me as a parent is Google Maps, available on most smart phones. I know that she'll never get lost when a map is always in her "pocket." Plus, I can load a navigation app for use in the car when she gets her driver's license.

A smart phone is also a homework helper. My daughter is already being given assignments that require her to research subjects on the Web. With a smart phone, maybe she'll actually get some of that work done on the bus ride home. And with Google search set to strict filtering, I know she won't be exposed to explicit text or images.

On the entertainment front, a smart phone can replace a number of the devices she uses today. She already has an iPod, loaded with her music, movies and TVs shows. A smart phone can handle that plus give her access to streaming services like Netflix, for movies, and Slacker, for music.

She also loves playing games on her Nintendo DSi — mostly games involving virtual pets and shopping. So I can see her easily moving her gaming to a smart phone. Hard-core junior gamers, though, will enjoy the newest Android phones hitting the market later this spring. With their dual-core processors, there will be plenty of power and the 4- to 4.5-inch displays are competitive with stand-alone, portable gaming systems.

Then there are the e-book reading apps. As an avid book reader, my daughter is constantly complaining about running out of things to read. Not with a smart phone. I could send new titles to her phone whenever she's ready for more.

Managing smart phone features

With all of the functionality a smart phone has to offer comes the need to use it responsibly. For some kids, this won't be a problem, but others might benefit from the boundaries you can set with parental controls.

For things like managing talk time, text messaging and call blocking, the carriers all have parental controls. For everything else, you'll have to rely on settings you choose on the phone.

The best parental controls are found on the iPhone. That's because they're baked into the operating system. You can turn off access to Safari, YouTube, the camera, iTunes, installing and deleting apps, making in-app purchases, playing multi-player games and adding friends in Game Center. You can also restrict access to music, TVs shows, movies and apps based on ratings. Plus you can add an app like Safe Browser to filter content on the Web if you don't want to shut it off entirely.

Android phones don't have any parental controls built into the operating system. There are apps out there though that do that, and they cover some areas that the iPhone doesn't. There's Android Parental Control (free), which restricts access to apps. AppNotifier (free) will let you know when your child loads apps onto the phone. SMS Filter ($1.35) looks for keywords in messages and blocks inappropriate content. And Picture Alert ($9.99) will send copies of any videos and pictures taken by the phone's camera.

BlackBerry 6 and Windows Phone 7 operating systems are also devoid of parental controls and there's nothing out there except call- and text- blocking apps.

There is also the data plan fee to consider when you're looking at smart phones. You'll be paying a minimum monthly fee of at least $15 on Verizon (150MB), $10 on T-Mobile (200MB) or $15 on AT&T (200MB) and $20 per month on Sprint (unlimited). But go over that limit and the fees can add up quickly.

While parents have the ultimate say in what type of phone to get their children, the question of smart phone versus regular phone is rapidly becoming moot. Already 94 percent of teens consider themselves advanced data users and their data use is skyrocketing, as they've become avid app users, according to a recent Nielsen study. Soon all phones will be smart phones by today's standards. And I think that's a good thing.

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Discussion loading

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No you Kantra, Suzanne

From Biff Stew on February 14, 2011 :: 8:04 am

This is the most ridiculous, irresponsible, and downright retarded article ever written and published for anyone anywhere to read.  Just what we need more mindless human beings walking into fountains and onto subway tracks while being distracted by more expensice gizmos telling everyone what to think and how to do anything.  Yeah, right, like a 9 year old is going to use an app to schedule his or her day or do honmework while on the school bus!  The only thing they are going to do with a smart phone is talk, text, surf, and play games, movies, or songs.  Wake up!  People like you need to quit taking the easy route and teach your child to think for themselves.  We don’t need more dumb people with smart phones.  We need more smart people with dumb phones.  Do us a favor, Suzanne, and open a fertilizer farm, so you can start smelling what your shoveling.

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Shut it!

From Joe Correct on May 27, 2013 :: 1:34 pm

Maybe not at 9, but all grade schoolers need a smartphone.

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Biff, Perhaps you should read the article first

From Josh Kirschner on February 14, 2011 :: 12:27 pm

You’re welcome to your opinions, but you should probably read the article before commenting.

Suzanne was suggesting a phone for when her daughter is 12, not 9. And parental controls can limit the phone from being over-used for texting or downloading of apps (games). You, as a parent, can also monitor usage through the controls or directly on the phone. And if you don’t trust your child to use the phone responsibly, don’t get him/her one.

Some of your other points are not very clear. How exactly does a smartphone tell “everyone what to think”?  And what makes a smartphone the “easy route” any more than buying your child a computer is the “easy route”?

BTW, for someone who is such a vocal advocate for smart people, you may want to work on your spelling and grammar. It should be “expensive” and “you’re”. I’ll leave the grammar errors for you to find and correct on your own. You can use the grammar checker within Microsoft Word, though that would be the easy route.

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LOL

From Biff Stew on February 14, 2011 :: 12:58 pm

OK, Suzanne, I guess I can understand you trying to defend your article anonymously.  And I did read the article, unfortunatley.  What is the significant difference between a 12 year old and a 9 year old?  I and all my siblings survived without cell phones, as well as my single mother.  Sure, I made a few spelling errors, which I take pride in since I am a flawed human being who was responding to an article on the fly, and really didn’t try to take the time to proofread or spell check, since I have a life and don’t depend on spell checkers and such.  My main point is we are bringing a generation into the world who’s already not prepaired for a future that doesn’t look very bright.  We’ve already reached peak oil so fuel prices are going to continue to rise, food supplies are dwindling, mass inflation is around the corner, and the gap between the have’s and have not’s is widening faster than an F-15 on full after burners.  Check recent news about how smart phones are using 5 times the bandwidth of any normal phone, and the consequences are going to mean more and more denial of service problems which can only be fixed by providers charging more and more for such services.  In the coming years, when things across the world go from bad to worse, cell phones won’t much help a person hunt or plant or build a fire.  People like Suzanne and you, Suzanne, are setting up the future generations to be totally unprepaired for the cold, hard, cruel realties of the natural world and real life.  I always thought the human brain was the most powerful tool in the world.  What ever happened to reading a map, or writing a letter, or having a normal conversation with a real person who is standing in front of you?  I don’t have to explain my comments to you or anyone else.  I’m not getting paid to say what I think.  In fact, I’m proud to disappoint you and many people like you who don’t make any real points other than to point out mistakes of others.  Don’t look for a splinter in another’s eye when you have a two-by-four in your own.  But, what do I know, I make spelling errors on comments to bad articles because I don’t depend on some cumputerized device to correct my mistakes.  Good luck with that when we’re all storming the Capitol with torches and pitch forks!

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A little off the point here

From Rue on February 27, 2011 :: 4:07 pm

Anyone, I mean anyone, who thinks buying a Smart Phone for a 9 year old is a good idea really needs to re-think it. Just because the child probably can operate the phone better than the parent doesn’t mean they should have a $200 piece of electronics on hand or because of a whim. I mean I just purchased my first Smart Phone from my prepaid company (Straight Talk) and it was $250 and while my son loves it, he is def not getting something like that for a few years. Whether you are thinking about a company like ATT or a prepaid one like Straight Talk, the prices and responsiblity of a phone should influence a parent more than anything.

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I currently have the Samsung

From Antonio on March 15, 2011 :: 8:54 pm

I currently have the Samsung Captivate Galaxy S. I love everything about it. A little warning about the GPS is that it has very spotty reception. Even so, maps always works. I love the fact that is has a personal planner, a very fast web broswer, great texting, a swype keyboard, a radio, and just about every kind of game you can think of. A little word of caution though is that they can be a little tricky to use at first.

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A 12 year olds opinion.

From Sam Haro on August 07, 2011 :: 6:41 pm

Hello i am twelve years old and as i am getting a smartphone off eBay for 80 dollars on prepaid contract for 35 dollars a month(virgin Mobile great plans), i also think your opinion is ridiculous. Probably the only reason i’m getting one is because of my interest in tech, I am very interested in jail-breaking and rooting and things like that. I also do a lot of article reading and must be up to date on the news wherever i am. Biff Stew is very right. I’m lucky to get one i wouldn’t die or cry or anything if i didn’t get it, a bit disappointed of course but that’s all. What your child needs is an education.

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Up-to-date on the news?! Really?

From Betty on August 18, 2011 :: 5:16 pm

Sam, you must be an extraordinary child to be reading articles on technology on a smartphone.  And how do you pay for your phone contract?  Does your allowence cover the monthly? Did it come with any riders?  Any excuses for Virgin Mobile to charge you extra for doing things outside the parameters of the contract?  Why does a 12 year old need to be up-to-date on the news wherever you are?  Are you somehow involved in world affairs?  Sam, you are probably a very nice kid…be a kid for a bit longer, eh?

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Sam haro is absolutely correct!!!

From Harry Goldburg on March 07, 2012 :: 11:46 pm

My son is also very interested in tech and has an iPod but even though he wants a cellphone he doesn’t absolutely need one. Have you ever heard of borrowing a phone to call someone??!? They can be useful but they are not absolutely needed.  As an adult I only got my first cell phone at 21 and I was absolutely fine without one, and I took part in numerous extracurricular activities in a third world country and I did quite fine.

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I've had a smartphone ever

From Kaminari Akasaka on October 20, 2011 :: 2:31 am

I’ve had a smartphone ever since I was 9 years old. I’m 12 now, and I own an iPhone4S. I’m waiting for the new ones to come out so I can buy those. My parents think I’m responsible enough to own one and trust me to use it wisely. It’s very versatile and convenient.

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seriously Biff

From buckifan on January 22, 2012 :: 8:26 pm

Biff,
Seriously you have to be one of the most negative people I have ever seen in my life. what are you teaching your kids to not even try in theworld because its all gonna go to pot anyway. Why dont you start realizing about the positive things in life instead of looking at the glass as half empty. Our children of today are going to change the world as we know it tomorrow. Yes I agree a child should learn how to read and write on paper and have face to face conversations, but what is wrong with our children being smart on electronics. I am looking to buy my * year old step daughter a smartphone because its a good thing. she already uses an ipod responsibly and knows her way around my galaxy tablet. so why not allow her to broaden her mind and be more electronically inclined. after all the whole world is turning to computers for everything these days so why not prepare her or any other child on this earth for that.

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Hi everyone!

From Michelle on May 24, 2012 :: 4:47 pm

Hey, my name is Michelle and I’m in sixth grade, about to be in seventh. I have been trying to convince my mom to get me a smartphone since I’m moving to a new school next year and I want to keep in contact with my old buddies C:
I already own a phone, but it doesn’t send or receive pictures, or all in all have any features I want. It doesn’t do anything. Just calls and texts, which I’m fine with right now, but once I move I’ll be aching to see my friends. My mother won’t let me join Facebook and I don’t care. But I want to keep in contact with my friends. So I am asking for a smartphone.
In my opinion, parents should let their kids get a smartphone when they think the kid is mature enough for one. I don’t think it’s a matter of age at all, just a measure of maturity. I’m mature, and I know that for a fact, I’m in the GT classes at school, I am on the distinguished honor roll, and my mother is always saying how I act mature… So that is what I had to say. And I think I’m ready for a smartphone because I WOULD use the phone for homework and reading, I actually have a life and stuff so I don’t waste my time playing stupid games.

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