The decision to give your child their first phone can be one of the most difficult ones a parent has to make.
Phones have become much more than just a device used for placing telephone calls. They are now symbols of social status, computers, calculators, and gaming devices. Perhaps most frightening, they also provide your child access to the world-wide web, which means that the web, and everyone on it, also potentially have access to your child.
That’s why teaching children web safety as well as cyber civics before presenting them with their first phones is important. Cyber civics is designed to teach children to stay safe while becoming a responsible member of the global, as well as the local, online community.
It also teaches them about cyber-bullying, online stranger danger and how to keep their location confidential. Media literacy is important for children who are about to be exposed to sophisticated advertising as well as information about cultures that differ significantly from their own.
In many ways, a smartphone connects your child to the whole world, even parts of it that you might prefer they avoid altogether.
There are a number of great starter phones that won’t break your bank. Children, as well as often being clumsy or forgetful, haven’t fully learned the value of money. Starting with an inexpensive phone can make those practice lessons a lot easier on your pocketbook. You can always upgrade once your child has demonstrated that they can take care of their phone.
Some of the most important features for parents for their child’s first phone include GPS tracking, task management capabilities, and parental controls that allow them to limit call and gaming time.
Some devices come with parental controls, but there are also are multiple apps for parents, some of which even provide alerts if certain words are used in texts or on social media.
The jury is still out on the best cell phones for teens, but a few are recommended more than the others.
Parenting experts recommend creating a contract with your child that outlines acceptable phone usage. They also recommend that parents have access to all passwords as well as apps and set limits on the hours during which the phone may be used. Any contract should also contain clear information about the consequences of breaking the terms of the contract.
Just as you can upgrade to a more expensive phone with more capabilities once your child has demonstrated they are capable of taking care of one, you can also upgrade to more phone privileges.
If your child has demonstrated responsible phone use, like not trying to bypass parental controls to make online purchases or gain entry into adult chat rooms, a fancier model with more capabilities is a great way to reward them.
Getting your teen a phone can be a great way to teach financial responsibility. Making it clear that if they want more minutes or a fancier phone, they’ll have to contribute, can be a powerful motivator for responsible behaviour. Your child’s willingness to do that can be one sign that they are really ready for a phone.
Finally, as a parent, you can help your child develop healthy smartphone habits, like not texting while walking, talking, or driving.
You can also help them avoid completely replacing the intimate face-to-face contact so necessary for healthy human relationships with smartphone screen time. One way to do that is by having a firm rule that no phones can be brought to the dinner table to interfere with real-time conversation.
With your guidance, your child can maintain healthy human connections as well as create safe internet connections.
Do you have any other tips for getting your child his or her first smartphone? Share with us in the comments.