How do you know when it’s the right time for your child to have a smart phone? I just don’t know if he’s ready, but he says “everyone has one!” Does this sound familiar?
Start by considering your own family’s circumstances. Phone and data plans are expensive, no doubt about that. Does your child have a tablet or an iPod they can use? Do they really really need a phone?
Now let’s chat about the difference between need versus want. All kids want a phone, of course they do! It is a privilege to have a phone, not a right – and along with that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility. So let’s think about it: is it an identified safety issue for your family? Will your child be home alone and require a phone (do you have a house phone)? Are they taking public transit?
As a family you need to assess your situation and decide if it is a necessary means of communication. Often, young children who are in the care of adults don’t require phones for safety.
Next, let’s touch on a biggie: responsibility. Is your child responsible enough? Now that’s a tricky question, because increasing responsibility is part of the natural progression of growth and development in kids.
Think about it: are they able to contribute financially to the cost of a phone or a monthly plan? Does your child keep loosing or breaking items? It is very expensive to buy or replace a phone. What will you and your child contribute?
Responsibility is also about being able to use it responsibly! The power of a smart phone is huge and can be very overwhelming for a young child. This increases their exposure to cyber bullying, sexting and inappropriate texting. Young children do not always have the brain development to understand the lasting consequences of posting online (no matter how often you tell them).
Often kids will try and hide what they are doing online from their parents, so when you decide the time is right for a smart phone, be sure you are up front with each other, set limits and rules, and know their screen names and passwords.
Don’t be worn out by your child’s whining or pleading. Times and technology may have changed, but you are still the parent, that has not changed.
Did you consider anything else when making your decision about phones? Share with us, we’d love to hear from you.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.