We live in a digital age when everyone wants to get their hands on a smartphone — including your child. Studies show the average American kid becomes a smartphone owner at 10.3 years old. However, the decision about when to purchase smartphones for children is a personal one that should take into account not just their age, but their personal situations and maturity levels. We’ll help you understand when your child will be ready for a smartphone.
Your Child Rarely Loses Things
Some children guard their possessions carefully and rarely misplace anything. Others are more scatterbrained and frequently leave toys at friends’ houses or sweaters at school. What type of child do you have? If your kid has been responsible with items in the past, they’re likely to keep a smartphone safe. If your child hasn’t been so reliable, holding on to a smartphone may be more challenging to them.
Your Child is Regularly Away From Home
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Children who only leave the house to attend school have very little need for a smartphones. Children who spend time between two homes, are babysat regularly, or have active social lives often have more need for these devices. If your child is often away from home, a smartphone can keep the lines of communication open between you.
Knowing you can call your child to clarify plans or whereabouts, no matter where he or she is, can be invaluable for your peace of mind. Remember to choose a modern smartphone connected to a provider with a comprehensive network, such as T-Mobile, to make sure your child’s device is always in range.
Your Child is Financially Responsible
Most parents know from an early age whether their children are spenders or savers. Spenders live on their pocket money from week to week, rather than hoarding it to make major purchases. They’ll often buy on impulse, rather than considering whether they really need something or not. The habits of spenders don’t suit smartphone ownership. If your child is a spender, you might be concerned about excessive call costs or in-app purchases. If you have a saver, he or she will be more likely to listen to your instructions about responsible usage.
Your Child Understands the Impact of Technology
When you hand children a smartphone, you’re giving them the keys to a world of technology. Some can handle this responsibly, but others can’t. When children understand the impact of technology, they tend to behave better with it.
Does your child understand that an explicit picture message may not stop with a boyfriend or girlfriend because it could be shared throughout the school? Does your child know teachers, future employers, and college admissions staff can see anything posted on social media? Does your child understand that other children have harmed themselves and even taken their own lives after being cyberbullied?
Before you get your child a smartphone, you should talk about these topics. If your child is receptive to listening to what you have to say and understanding of your concerns, it’s a good sign he or she may act responsibly with a smartphone.
Your Child Respects Screen Time Limits
Many parents limit the time their children spend staring at screens for their health and wellbeing. Some children accept screen time limits and use time away from screens to enjoy active play and socialize with friends. Others resent the limits and will do anything they can to bend the rules. If your child hasn’t respected screen time limits in the past, getting a smartphone is likely to exacerbate the problem.
Smartphones facilitate many of the screen activities children love, like playing games and watching TV. But as these devices are much smaller, they make it easier for children to indulge in these habits in secret. They can simply go to their rooms and plug in headphones to participate in restricted activities.
It takes real maturity and responsibility to become a smartphone owner. Is your kid ready for that? Trust your own instincts to guide you when deciding whether your child is ready for a smartphone.