There’s no question about it. Cell phones are a great way to stay in touch anytime, anywhere. But is your child old enough to have one? It’s a common question that many parents are wrestling with, especially this holiday season as the smartphone becomes one of the top most wanted gifts on the wish list among kids.
Smartphones, in particular, introduce all kinds of concerns for parents, such as their kid’s potential loss of sleep, sexting, cyber-bulling, not knowing who contacts their child, browsing the web too freely, distraction from school, access to too many games, cost of a lost phone, and the list goes on and on.
But the reality is, you can't beat the convenience. If your child has a cell phone, you can call or text to find out where he or she is and what they are up to. And in an emergency or something as simple as trying to pick up your child, a cell phone can be crucial if your child needs to reach you -- or vice versa.
The benefits outweigh the risks in most cases, and it’s why one of the fastest growing segments of smartphone usage is among kids. In fact, Nielsen data recently revealed that 70% of kids age 13-17 now have a smartphone, compared to two years ago when that figure was only 36%.
So, the question for parents becomes when is the right time to give a child a cell phone. The answer is not entirely straightforward. It’s not just about age. It’s really about readiness on many different levels.
Here’s a quiz from Zact Mobile, the experts in smartphones for kids, that can help you see if your child is ready for a first phone.
Does your child? (add 1 point for every "Yes" answer):
- Need the smartphone to stay connected to you for emergencies?
- Understand what types of apps are okay to download?
- Understand how to surf the web safely?
- Know how to use the phone safely and appropriately?
- Know who it's okay to communicate with and who it's not?
- Know what they should or shouldn't share online?
- Know what kinds of words or pictures not to send?
- Respect your rules and adhere to time and usage limits?
- Understand the concept of voice, text and data limits and how to stay within them?
- Understand how to be responsible and to take care of not losing his or her phone?
You should hold off on getting your child a smartphone. But get the conversation started between you and your child about responsibility on using smartphones.
Your child is "normal", but it's not out of the question to get your child a smartphone, especially if he or she needs to reach you in an emergency. Make sure you get a smarter phone that lets you set limits on how your child can use the phone.
Your child is ready, but will need "training wheels" for their first smartphone. Help your child to understand the rules, and use voice, data & text restrictions and parental controls to keep things in line.
CONGRATULATIONS! Your child has the responsibility and awareness readying them for a smartphone.
Once you cross over the hump and decide to give your child a smartphone, here’s a checklist of things to do to ensure your kids stay safe and act responsibly with their new device: