|Photo by Brett Sayles
Choosing when to give your child access to a smartphone is a big decision. Some kids might be more mature than others, and there are also special situations to consider. For instance, if you and your child’s other parent are divorced, a smartphone might be the best way to keep in touch with them when they’re at their other parent’s home.
There is no right answer to when the best time is for kids to have a smartphone. However, you should make sure you know how to actually keep in touch with kids who have reached that age. There’s a common misconception that smartphones get in the way of communication. While that certainly can be true, it doesn’t have to be for your family.
How do you keep in touch with kids when they’re finally at that infamous smartphone age? What tools are at your disposal for keeping kids close and safe? In this guide, we’ll discuss the importance of knowing when your kids are ready for a smartphone as well as how to best keep them close.
When Are Kids Ready for a Smartphone?
As we mentioned earlier, there is no magic age where kids are suddenly ready for a smartphone. It’s a much better idea to consider the child’s maturity level. Some kids mature faster than others, and some might need more time to adjust to the responsibility of a smartphone.
It’s important to think critically and rationally about this. Just about every kid today wants a smartphone but most don’t need a smartphone. Here are some questions to guide this process:
- Are your kids showing signs of responsibility?
- How are your kids at protecting their belongings?
- Do your kids need to be available quickly for safety reasons?
- Will your children use their cell phones responsibly?
- Do they understand the social responsibilities of a smartphone (i.e. not using it to bully others digitally)?
- Can they adhere to your smartphone limits?
Answering these questions will help you understand if it’s time to make this change. If you’re not entirely sure, there are still some options for testing your child’s ability to have a smartphone responsibly without the same large risk. You might choose a prepaid phone or a child-locked phone with limited features. Both of these are a good option for a smartphone “test run.”
Smartphone Guidelines for Setting Rules
Rules and smartphones generally go hand in hand, but where do you start? How do you set rational yet realistic rules for both yourself and your children around smartphone usage? Creating clear rules upfront will help you establish boundaries and communication expectations. Here are some suggestions for creating smartphone guidelines for the entire family:
Practice what you preach.
First, you need to make sure you’re following any guidelines you set around phones. For example, if there’s a “no phones at the dinner table” rule, you’ll need to make sure all adults and parents follow this rule as well. If you’re not practicing what you preach, it’s hard to expect kids to do the same.
Look for balance.
In today’s society, smartphones are used more than ever, even with younger kids. Tech-savvy kids actually have a lot of advantages in life, such as more interest in STEM fields, adaptability, and so on. Promoting healthy, positive technology usage can actually be a good thing.
This is why it’s essential that you balance both tech and non-tech time. Showing kids how to responsibly use their own smartphones is a great first step, but it doesn’t have to end there. Allow ample time for exploring these smartphones, but also leave time for family.
Finally, include yourself in your children’s smartphone usage. A lot of parents make the mistake of pushing kids away by putting too much control over how they use their devices. While you should set ground rules, it’s much easier to simply be involved by showing interest.
If your kids are playing games online, ask to learn more about the game. If they’re on social media websites, add them on these platforms. Be involved will help you make smarter choices about their smartphones.
|Photo by Anastasiya Gepp
Use Safe Connectivity Tools
Finally, you can use the right smartphone tools to keep in touch with your kids. A lot of modern messaging and video chat services are easy to use or affordable, but do you really know how they use your data? In addition, are their advertisements safe for kids of all ages?
The best option is to use a secure, family-friendly tool like Say: Share Together! a Group Video Chat Network. This type of platform is designed for keeping families close, and it's distraction and ad-free so you can trust kids of all ages on this app. It’s important to know you can reach your children quickly, and Say makes it simple.
Be Confident About Smartphones
Smartphones aren’t the negative, harmful tool they’re often made out to be. While it’s true you need to be proactive about guidelines around these devices, you also shouldn’t be too worried. As long as you’re involved in the process, you should feel confident that your kids will be safe and secure online.
Most kids get a cell phone at age 10, but it will depend on your own child’s needs and maturity level. If you feel like it’s time for this next step, be confident in your decision. It isn’t as scary as it sounds, and you can help them use these tools responsibly.