It seems everyone has a smartphone these days, including young kids. Here are expert tips for deciding if your child should have a smartphone, and how to keep her safe if she gets one.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to buy your child a smartphone. Psychologist Dana Klisanin, Ph.D., shares her insight to help you make the choice for your child.
Take their age into consideration
Klisanin says, “If our children have smartphones when they are very young what will we give them in the years to come? Part of growing up is looking forward to the privileges that come with age. Older children who want a smartphone should be willing to allocate a portion of their allowance toward the bill.”
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Figure out why they may need a smartphone
“One of the key factors in deciding when a child should have a phone is where they live and what their typical day entails,” Klisanin explains. “For example, kids who live in large cities and use public transportation would need access to a smartphone at a younger age than those who live in the suburbs and rely upon family members for transportation.”
I never thought my kids — 14 and 10 years old — would have smartphones, but I’m glad they do. They text me after school to check in, I know where they are, and when my husband and I travel, it’s easy to keep in touch.
Potential downsides of kids having smartphones
If you’ve had to take your child’s smartphone away because of too much texting or game playing, you’re not alone — but more dangerous behavior can happen when your child has access to smartphone technology.
“Cyberbullying can begin over the phone, via text messages, and move online to social media. Many children are reluctant to tell parents about such messages and try to deal with it on their own,” says Klisanin.
Bottom line? Have frank discussions with your children, and don’t be afraid to check their texts or phone numbers that show up on your smartphone bill.
Making the right choice for your child
Shannan Younger says “no” to buying a smartphone for her 10-year-old daughter. “Smartphones seem like a slippery slope,” she says. “There’s always a better, new one coming out, and there are always new apps. The issues of paying for it, keeping track of it and monitoring it make me think that the smartphone would not simplify my life.”
Mom Kaylor Hildenbrand likes her daughter having instant access to the internet on her smartphone. “She goes online frequently to check grades and homework assignments,” she says. “It has helped her become super responsible, accountable and pretty independent.”
Klisanin adds, “Realize that by giving a child a smartphone we give them access to the internet and all the risks that are associated with it — but we also give them access to the benefits associated with it. As children grow older, smartphones can be used to teach our children about privacy, trust and establishing boundaries.”