4 Signs Your Child is Ready For a Phone
Pornography, social media, and video game addiction include many of the reasons why parents are reluctant to get their children mobile devices. I remember buying my first phone at the age of 16 – by then, I was well informed about the possible harms of using a mobile phone. Parents have different opinions when it comes to buying a phone for their child, especially when such a child is not of age. Irrespective of what such an opinion is, buying your kid’s a phone gives them potential access to endless information–both helpful and harmful.
The recent news of sexual immorality that occurred among some secondary school students sent the whole country into a debate as to what could have caused it. While some blamed the school, others blamed parents for the behavior those students showcased. We are not writing this piece to blame anyone, but to point out one obvious fact – the students were the ones recording the act, they even went as far as posting it online. It makes one ask this question, how are such kids exposed to that kind of content at such a young age?
That news would make parents to even reconsider buying phones for their children. Because if we are to be sincere with ourselves, those kids came across such things via the internet on their phones. As I stated in the first line of this article, pornographic content is among some of the harmful materials kids who use phones are exposed to at an early age. So you may be asking yourself this question, how do I know when my child is ready to own a phone?
The Minimum Age for Smartphone Usage
When determining smartphone eligibility, it ultimately comes down to a child’s level of maturity and responsibility. So, kids wanting to use–and not abuse–smartphone privileges should prove a few things first.
Here are 4 signs they’re ready to own a phone:
1. They have Knowledge about Smartphone Dangers
Smartphones are literally a gateway to the entire world; kids need to be prepared for what they’re going to see and familiar with what is–and isn’t–okay. Kids shouldn’t have mobile devices at their fingertips unless they’re well-versed in the power they contain. Have an in-depth discussion on sexting, dangers of pornography, risks of cyberbullying, online predators, and calling in case of danger to your kids before the purchase of a smartphone. According to Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, “Phone safety is a crucial, non-negotiable conversation we must have with our children.”
If children can rattle off how sharing sensitive, personal information in a text is a bad idea, explain proper online etiquette, and understand that social media is based on appearances more than reality, they may be prepared to navigate the perils, and not just the technical aspects, of a smartphone.
2. They Practice Open Communication
It will get to a point where your kids won’t tell you everything about them, that’s normal. As long as the secrets are appropriate, that is fine. Even as that, we need to have our kids be able to come to meet us (irrespective of their age) and confide in us. If we don’t have a solid rapport with our kids, they’re less likely to come to us with problems.
With the introduction of smartphones into their lives, they may encounter problems like cyberbullying and stalking from predators. Even when they have done something wrong, we still need them to confide in us. Therefore, it’s crucial to establish and maintain open communication before unleashing a smartphone.
There is no argument that if you’ll be allowing your kids access to social media, healthy communication translates to healthy usage. And healthy usage means that no online activities can be kept private from you. Dishonesty and concealment are giant, waving red flags. Kids that either struggle with lying or tend to be deceptive need to understand that the truth alone will earn your trust–and their smartphone privileges.
3. They have Self-Control Over Other Technologies
Kids have a lot of different technologies to distract them. Most likely, it’s already a huge part of their lives and will remain so. To test their self-restraint, try setting daily time limits on the hours or minutes they can use each type of tech (TV, desktop, Video game consoles). If they complain profusely when their 30 minutes of TV shows are up, they are not ready to demonstrate the self-control that’s required to use a phone.
If they’d rather stay inside and play video games than join the friendly neighborhood kids in playing, they might need encouragement to re-balance the amount of screen time they enjoy. Kids should also be setting aside technology while they’re studying, eating meals, and at least 2 hours before heading to bed.
If you’re having a problem with controlling their screen time, it’s best to delay the purchase of a smartphone until they can better self-monitor and control their usage.
4. School and Home Must Come First
Kids should be given age-appropriate responsibilities, it instills a sense of responsibility in them. Smartphones on the other hand can be a fun distraction from these responsibilities. Kids are to help around the house, whether it is washing dishes, folding laundry, or clearing the dining table, these works must be done before any technology is used.
In addition, kids need to be on track with their learning (be it virtually or in-person) before you consider buying a smartphone. Fine, there are educational resources that can be helpful on mobile devices. However, before our kids are ready to dig into these educational resources on their devices, they must demonstrate responsibility in learning the old-school way.