Smartphones are powerful and versatile, but they are also expensive and don't take kindly to being dropped. That's why some parents are left guessing when is right time to introduce such high-maintenance technology to their children. The wonders of mobile technology have plenty to offer your family when your kids are ready, and there are plenty of factors to consider when each child seems ready for a smartphone of their own. Evaluating how your kids have handled a number of other challenges and responsibilities is a good start. You can also weigh-in the following criteria to ask yourself: Is my child ready for the responsibility of a smartphone?
1. What's your child's maturity level?
First and foremost, the main factor to consider when deciding on whether or not to purchase your child or teen a smartphone is your current communication patterns. Is your kid upfront with you when he or she makes a mistake? Is he or she willing to be held accountable for their behavior? Do you feel like you can trust them to take care of an expensive electronic device?
Trust your gut. If your response to these inquiries is a resounding "No!", then you may want to reconsider the purchase until you feel confident and comfortable trusting your child or teen with the device. Purchasing them a smartphone will feel more like a safe bet if he or she is responsible and has safely handled less costly electronics in the past.
2. Do the circumstances create a necessity?
There's a big difference between purchasing a smartphone for your child as a reward and equipping them with a smart device to improve communication. Likewise, children and teens alike are predisposed to treat a family phone "on loan" differently than a smartphone that was purchased intentionally as their personal device. According to the Child Mind Institute, establishing these types of boundaries is important.
Worried that the adolescent in your home isn't ready to manage a device? Purchase one for the family instead and let your kids know that how they handle the loaner phone will impact how quickly they get a device of their own. This strategy allows you to test your child's ability to follow strict instructions regarding smartphone usage without risking your pocket book to get the job done. After all, there's no rule book requiring their starter phone to come with all the bells and whistles. A more economically priced device may better serve your purposes.
3. Do the benefits outweigh the risks for your family?
At a certain point, it may seem that it's more trouble than it's worth to not provide your child with a smartphone. After all, there are numerous practical perks to hooking your child up with advanced technology.
Putting a phone in the hands of your kids means better family communication:
- Getting your child's attention is a bit easier when you can text, phone or video chat your kids at your leisure. When they are constantly busy with extracurriculars, transporting the family turns into a logistical nightmare and a simple means of getting touch becomes priceless.
Smartphones provide your kids with a calendar/organizer that's always on hand:
- Kids that struggle with scheduling often need a little extra help to get organized, and the impact of this skill deficiency becomes more apparent - and more counter-intuitive to their success - as children grow older. The convenient and streamlined nature of a smartphone's apps might be the extra tool your kid needs to add some extra structure to their lives.
Sometimes it makes the most financial sense to consider family phone plans:
- Wireless Zone stores often sell multiple smartphones of the same make and model as part of family packages. In scenarios like these, including your kids on the plan makes more financial sense than purchasing new phones for each family member a la carte. These plans often come with discounts on large monthly data limits, a must when one or more kids in the family is using a smartphone.
4. Is college is just around the corner in your child's life?
All the organizational and educational advantages of owning a smartphone are even more relevant for college students. Likewise, a reliable means of communication is essential once your kids are out of the house and living closer to campus. If your child is still without a smartphone after high school graduation, it can serve as a highly practical graduation present.
Be sure to send them off to school with important accessories like a protective case, extra chargers and products designed to keep the device clean. Be sure to program emergency contact numbers into the phone before sending kids off to school. College life can be trying and unpredictable, so taking these precautions helps to educate your kids about the rigors of adult life will make it easier for them to care for their newly purchased smartphone.