It’s a question that comes up in nearly every family these days— What is the right age to buy your kid a smartphone? While there is no one answer that fits all, we turned to expert Scott Steinberg, bestselling author of Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, for tips on approaching this tricky topic.
“The decision to invest in such devices is largely a function of family need, children’s maturity level, how well-equipped you feel your children are to make good decisions, and the safety tools that you’ve put in place to catch them if they should stumble,” says Steinberg.
Many parents first introduce a cell phone to kids around age 13. Some households lean a little younger, but you’ll find it a fairly reasonable starting point if you’re looking for an opening guideline. When you really should introduce a mobile device to kids’ lives is when there’s a meaningful, pressing need to do so. For example, when your child starts after-school activities and will be outside of easy reach and you absolutely, positively need to keep in contact with them. With that said, below are a few key pieces of advice to keep in mind as you weigh the decision.
Keep it simple. Consider buying a cell phone that dials only your contact number if and when kids need to come home. Prepaid cell phones can also let you limit call times and features, restrict Internet usage, prevent access to unwanted features, and monitor overall usage, and usage patterns.
Opt out. If you’re concerned about unexpectedly large bills, or kids’ Internet activity, opt out of texting or endless data plans and choose a basic feature phone that forgoes bells and whistles such as downloadable apps, unlimited web browsing and GPS tracking to limit children’s online interactions.
Keep watch. Consider restricting cell phone usage to only taking place in your presence until kids are mature enough to handle calls, texting and online interactions on their own.
Monitor usage. Be certain to monitor cell phone activity and usage, and review your bill regularly for suspicious calls, activity or communications made when mobile handsets are supposed to have been shut down, for instance, 3 AM on a Tuesday night.
The decision on when and how to introduce a smartphone to a child isn’t an easy or straightforward one. However, by following a few simple guidelines, it becomes far easier to navigate— and far easier to help keep your kids safe online.
For more from award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg, bestselling author of Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap and Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, visit AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
Opening Image: Bridget Badore for Mini Magazine