Most kids today have access to abundant technology. They have tablets in preschool, Chromebooks in elementary school, and by middle school, many have their first (or second, or third…) smartphone.
Does that mean it’s okay?
There are risks and benefits with every piece of technology. A smartphone has the incredible ability to connect us with every person on the planet, every idea posted online, and every app or game or song that could interest us. The actual “phone” app is often one of the least used!
Considering the benefits, smartphones allow children to connect with their peers, explore and learn about new topics, and be more accessible to parents both for safety and for peace of mind.
Considering the risks, smartphones allow children to connect with their peers (perhaps enduring cyber bullying, or waking up at 2am for a text), explore and learn about new topics (including an incredible prevalence of pornography and violence online), and be more accessible to parents (perhaps giving a false sense of security about what your child is doing, where they are, or who they are becoming).
Ultimately, every child is different, and the answer to this question comes down to their maturity level and your family values and boundaries.
Here are some questions to consider as you think about your child and family:
- Do their friends have smartphones? From what you’ve observed and heard from their parents, how are they using them?
- Does your child show a sense of responsibility? Can you trust what they say and do?
- How are you (mom and dad) using your phones? What are you modeling for your child?
- How easily does your child lose things? (Phones are expensive!)
- Are you aware of parenting protection features on phones? Current popular apps? How is your digital knowledge base to supervise and monitor?
- Are bullying or social issues a concern for your child? What about pornography use? Video games or movie watching habits? Is your child ready to be independent with these things, with easy access any time of day?
- How clear are the boundaries, rules, and consequences around the potential phone? Are they realistic for you to enforce all of the time?