Should kids have cell phones? That’s the question every modern parent asks at some point. However, as a practical matter when it comes to kids and cell phones, there are a few questions to ask yourself first:
Why should kids have cell phones?
Do I need an emergency phone for children?
What other communication devices for children could be considered?
Would smartphone alternatives be a better choice?
Then you could ask yourself follow-up questions, e.g. B. When should a child get a phone if you decide they need one.
As a futurist, parent, and author of Parenting for High-Tech Kids, I often remind families that there’s not always a compelling reason to put a smartphone in your child’s hands. However, smart technology can open the door to all sorts of wonderful apps and games for kids, as well as a wealth of helpful connections and insights. It also means preparing children for the challenges that online connectivity and communication often bring.
Considering a few specific points can help you determine why (or why not) your kids should have phones and whether different smartphone alternatives are a better option.
When should kids have cell phones?
First things first, it’s important to realize that there’s no universally accepted age at which experts say kids should have cellphones. A good rule of thumb is 13 years old and that gives a good general base to work from. However (and it’s a big deal) the parents must of course make this decision for themselves, based on the child’s maturity and other factors.
Here are some key points and questions to ask yourself when considering whether your kids should have cell phones:
How mature and responsible are your children?
To what extent have you prepared them to respond to questionable exchanges or controversial content they may encounter online?
Do you need a children’s communication device or a children’s emergency phone for practical reasons?
Is there a compelling reason to give your child a cell phone now, or would you be better off waiting a little longer?
It’s also important to remember that before you bring any high-tech device into your home, it’s important to establish rules and policies that govern its use and what content is appropriate to consume and share. This means taking the time to establish with your kids how much screen time they will have each day:
Is screen time earned or given?
When and where it is appropriate to use children’s communication devices
When phones need to be turned off at certain times of the day, e.g. B. an hour before bedtime and during breakfast or dinner
In addition, you should make it clear that if your children come across questionable exchanges or content online, your door is always open as a parent. You should also make it clear what the consequences will be if your House Rules are not followed, and under what circumstances privileges will be regained.
Why should a child get a phone?
The answer depends on when you feel they’re willing to do so, or when there’s a compelling reason to point out that they really need such a device for security or training reasons. From a practical standpoint, this usually means when your kids start attending after-school activities and camps, when they need to connect with you remotely while they’re playing at friends’ houses, or when they’re mostly outside of your home otherwise, it doesn’t require direct supervision or accessibility , such as B. walking to class. If you’re thinking about kids having cell phones, consider adding a parental control app like Smart Family if they need online access to information, apps, or websites to support their classes, assignments, and learning .
Keep in mind that the introduction of different communication devices for children in your home also means that you as a parent must commit to doing your homework as these devices and apps and their respective capabilities are constantly changing. In addition, you must actively work with your children to embed positive high-tech habits on a daily basis, such as: For example, learning to put devices down while chatting with other family members, or at a specific time every night. On the plus side, as I’ve observed in my own household, kids and cell phones can often be a winning combination. That’s because children have boundless curiosity — and as an always-on, always-on gateway to a wealth of online information and activities, smartphones can expose them to a multitude of positive exchanges and experiences…plus new insights, information, and people.
However, giving a child a cell phone effectively means exposing them to the wide virtual world in general. Just like you wouldn’t send them around the neighborhood to play without educating them about potential dangers and teaching them good safety habits, you need to prepare them in advance before playing in the digital world. Remember, technology is just another tool for learning and communicating, and as with any tool, knowing how to use it responsibly is important to having a positive and uplifting experience.
What to give your child instead of a phone
Not ready for your kids to have cell phones yet? That’s perfectly understandable. Especially parents of younger children should consider the many smartphone alternatives for children.
A number of kid-friendly cell phones for kids, for example, are specifically designed to help you communicate and keep an eye on your little ones, while setting limits on their online access and curbing unwanted communications. Many popular offerings offer extensive parental controls—or eliminate web browsers and app stores entirely—so you can control screen time, filter out age-appropriate material, and block access to unwanted apps or websites. Many devices also allow you to pre-program the contacts of friends and family members into the handset and limit communication to just those people. Several models also use geo-tracking and GPS capabilities so you can track children’s movements and restrict Internet access to pre-approved apps and services.
A variety of wearable smartwatches, like the GizmoWatch, can also provide peace of mind by allowing young children to call, video chat, or text right from their wrist. Several wearables for kids allow to-do lists and daily reminders to be created, e.g. B. “Don’t forget to meet Dad after art class at 4pm!” on their fingertips.
Of course, many families looking for an emergency phone for kids may also consider equipping them with older flip phone models that lack extensive internet and app connectivity features or cameras and video conferencing capabilities. Or they send kids to school with devices whose connectivity is limited to calls and calls only. Keep in mind that there are countless smartphone alternatives for kids, most of which either (a) introduce helpful high-tech training wheels or (b) allow you to implement parental controls that keep what kids can do in the extent to which they can go online and who they can communicate with.
Answering the question of when a child should get a phone often becomes easier when you realize you don’t need to dive right into the deep ends of telecommunications technology. If you want to help kids get their feet wet with high-tech gadgets before upgrading to systems with more features, you can buy pocket-sized GPS trackers with touch-controlled speakers and SOS help buttons that you can send kids to school with as an alternative to smartphones or tablets.
So the good news is that you don’t have to worry too much. If you feel like your child is too young to have a cell phone, there are several high-tech tools available to help you stay better connected with your kids every step of the way.
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