Smartphones are very powerful devices. Compared to cellphones in the early 2000’s, even the cheapest smartphones now have a good camera, large screen, millions of apps, instant messaging and video call capabilities and of course a fast access to the Internet.
Smartphones help us with our daily lives by keeping us connected to one another, holding information that we otherwise would have to memorize and help us access information that we would otherwise look from books. Each of these features has hidden risks, and can end up hurting you or your child.
Dangers of smartphones
Easier and faster communication has brought everyone closer, but it’s also giving bullies another channel to pick on their victims. Cyberbullying is a big problem among kids and teens nowadays and prolonged cyberbullying can lead to depression, isolation and worse. Create an atmosphere where your child can easily tell you if they received something hurtful online.
Every parent should also keep in mind that it might be their own child who is doing the bullying and not the other way around. Even if your child is empathic and knows right from wrong in the real life, the digital world is faceless and totally different. Teach your child about how to behave and treat others even in the digital world.
Easy access to millions of apps and other endless sources of entertainment is highly addictive. While there are great learning apps out there, overuse of any smart device will also adversely affect in your kids still growing brain. Set strict limits for your child’s smartphone use.
Free access to the internet, social video services like YouTube and social media can also expose your kid to mature content that they won’t know how to process. It’s most likely that your kids will see this kind of content online, if they can use their smartphones without monitoring. Anticipate this and teach your kids about different content which is not suitable for kids. Consider using parental control tools on their devices.
Is your kid mature enough?
There isn’t just one number anyone can give you as the right age for kid’s first smartphone.
Age is not as important as kid’s sense of responsibility and ability to follow rules that you and other grownups set for them.
You should ask at least these questions:
- Do your kids show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they come home when they say they will?
- Would they use text, photo and video messaging responsibly and not to embarrass and harm others?
- Would they tell you if they saw disturbing content somewhere or if they received hurtful messages?
Does your kid really need it?
- Do you and your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons?
- Would having easier access to friends benefit them socially?
- Do you want to utilize some of the many very useful learning apps for kids?
Start cheap and low-end
- This is a no-brainer. Always start from small, so your kid learns the value of even a cheaper phone.
- Do your kids tend to lose things, such as clothes, toys or school equipment? If so, expect they might lose their phone too.
- Do your kids take care of their stuff or are there a lot of accidents where stuff gets broken? Consider this when buying them a phone. Always get a strong cover too!