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Do you remember your first cell phone?
For me, it was 1990-something and my parents had just brought home a brand new, charcoal black, state of the art bag phone! At the time, it was an amazing piece of technology. I still remember how it’s bulky mass sat stoically between my parents in the front seat of the family Buick as we traveled the highways. Granted, my parents rarely allowed us to use the cell phone. After all, it was only for emergencies, but she sat there reminding us of her potential.
Even with her simplicity, that cell phone was amazing!
Today, our cell phones are no longer confined to a knapsack or the constant charge of the cigarette lighter. We have full mobility and our cell phones are mini computers held in the palm of our hands. If we were mesmerized with the prehistoric bag phone, imagine how our children feel when they see a tablet or Smartphone?
Are Smartphones A Right Or Privilege?
Every child is different and it is important to factor in the child’s maturity and level of responsibility before handing over a Smartphone. The moment a child turns the device on, they are opening a gooey mess of apps, features, cameras, and constant connectivity that exposes them to a variety of hazards parents need to consider. Allowing children the privilege of owning a Smartphone is not cut and dry.
“The argument that everyone else is doing it isn’t a reason for any parent to make a bad decision they’re not comfortable with,” Dr. Melissa Deuter, a renowned San Antonio psychiatrist, explains, “Families have to take into account their own value sets.”
Cell phones have undoubtedly made our job easier when we want to stay in touch with our children. Our sons and daughters can simply text or call when a practice finishes early or they want to go out for pizza after a game. While our devices have many positive features, we need to remember that Smartphone technology goes above and beyond a simple text or call.
7 Tips For Giving Children A Smartphone
Deciding in favor or against a child owning a Smartphone is basically a matter of doing what is best for our children. As parents, we need to help them succeed in life, not create problems by allowing access to technology they don’t understand or can’t properly use. Many parents don’t rely on a magical age or date on a calendar to when a child is ready for a Smartphone.
Often, families begin children on basic cell phones that are considered “dumb” in today’s terms. These phones often have the basic calling, texting, and phone cameras. This allows children to develop skills, before handing over Internet and social media capabilities.
After deciding a child is ready to handle the pressure and responsibility of owning a Smartphone, here are seven recommendations for setting him or her up for success:
- Clearly and firmly state the rules before the first phone call or swipe of a finger.
- Set up contacts together. Depending on the age of the child, you might want to include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other key people.
- Familiarize yourself with the apps and trends children are using. Download apps like Instagram, YikYak, or other popular apps on your own Smartphone to identify trouble areas to address with your child.
- Avoid cell phones in bedrooms, bathrooms, or other private areas.
- Designate “dead” times where all phones are powered down for the night.
- Apps should be approved by parents before they are purchased or downloaded.
- Monitor a child’s Smartphone use and know if they are doing anything malicious or dangerous. Be aware of the sites and apps your child frequents. Friend your child online or know their passwords to keep an eye out for problems.
With all the new technology available today, it can be difficult to know when a child should be allowed an upgrade to a Smartphone or similar device. Many experts have weighed in on the subject, but they ultimately stress that a parent should always rely on their instincts if a child is ready to own a Smartphone or not.
Just try not be like my parents, who kept the good ‘ole bag phone around for years, maybe decades. It was only a few years ago they surrendered to the new century and finally exchanged her in for “his and hers” matching Smartphones. Now they need to consult their grandchildren on how to text, snap photos, surf the Internet, and download apps.
For age guidelines and helpful tips for deciding when a child is ready for a Smartphone,
please consult the following infographic: