Considerations for giving a child a smartphone

Kids  looking at a smartphone

As parents you probably wrestle with when to give your child a smartphone. There are no standard rules about age and maturity level, but here are a few tips to consider when making a decision.

Get to a good place emotionally

Giving your child their own phone could signal the beginning of their growing independence. Think hard about if you’re ready to cut the cord and give them more room to explore on their own. Also, consider if they’re ready for the added responsibility of keeping the device safe.

In some cases, a phone could reduce some safety concerns allowing you to be in contact with them when out of your presence. This may be the reason for giving them a phone. The answers to these questions will weigh on your decision to move forward or not.

Consider the costs involved 

You’re going to need an extra phone, so review your family budget. See if you can afford to buy another one outright, lease it over several months, get a pre-paid phone or pass down your old iPhone or Android and upgrade. There could also be fees involved when adding another line to the plan, so add that cost in, too.

Shop around to see which carrier will give you the best deal. Some family plans help you avoid overage charges, keeping your monthly costs steady. With the tools they provide you could limit your child’s ability to make calls, send texts or browse the internet, if he exceeds his allotted minutes or data usage.

Get to know your device of choice 

To get started, it’s important for you and your kids to know how to use the phone and protect your personal and financial lives online. If you pass down your old iPhone or Android, you’ll already know how the phone works, and likely what the security settings are.

If you’re starting with a phone you’ve never used, do your homework on its features. This way you’re not giving a phone that’s too advanced for their age.

Whether you go with new or used, it’s best to set up parental logins alongside your child's passcode. Depending on the device, you can change the phone’s settings or download third-party apps to restrict their access to inappropriate sites, apps and malware.

For older teens, set guidelines about appropriate device use. Your carrier may also offer features like tracking or blocking phone usage while the car is in motion. And if your child is on social media, set ground rules for use and enable strict privacy settings in the app.

Keep tabs on kids and devices 

Set limits on the amount of time your child spends on the device alone. This is a great way to balance screen time with family time.

It’s a tough call deciding when to give your child their own phone. Use these tips to help think through the issues involved. 

The advice provided is for information purposes only. 

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