A smartphone is at the top of your child’s holiday wish list? Common Sense Media reports 53% of kids have a smartphone by the time they turn 11. If this is the year you’re making young wishes come true, here are tips for buying first smartphones.
What’s the Right Age?
Parentology recently talked to Titania Jordan, technology expert, and Chief Parenting Officer at Bark for some useful tips for when buying a child’s first smartphone. We started with — Just what is the right age for a kid to get their first smartphone?
The short answer: it depends on your family dynamic and factors like whether your child does activities, their school is far from home or they have health issues that may make having a phone more of a necessity.
While some families decide to get their child a phone when they’re 7, 8, or 9 years-old, others wait until their children are in eighth or ninth grade, Jordan says. How best to base this decision? “It’s less about age and more about whether you’re aware of the parental control options that exist and whether you know how to use them. Parents need to be aware of what kids can encounter and how to handle it.”
Are Certain Smartphones Better for Kids Than Others?
Yes. Jordan recommends Android devices over iPhones because they have more parental controls and are easier to manage.
Which Features are Best for Kids?
Jordan recommends, “If you’re looking to just communicate with your child and locate them, choose a smartphone that has both WiFi and a cell phone plan with LTE capability .” These types of smartphones allows parents to track the child, plus have the capacity for text, phone and voicemail.
If you want your child to communicate with their peers, letting them have a device that can call, text, and email is good.
Other than that, parents should decide whether they’re ready for their child to take and send photos and have access to social media.
As they get older, communications tend to go towards social media. With this in mind, Jordan suggests both parents and their kids get educated about what to expect — everything from sexting to bot traffic — when venturing into the social media world. “Parents may not realize how prevalent sexual content is online. They need to know these things are really happening and talk to their children about them.
Most devices have a level of parental controls. “Android phones can give you access to Google Family,” Jordan says. “This allows you to track your child’s location, limit their screen time and give a thumbs up or thumbs down when it comes to apps they want to download. All of these parental controls are focused on limiting time or controlling content.”
The Bark app for parental controls is available for both Android and iPhone devices. “This app helps to monitor various platforms and alerts parents when their children encounter things like cyberbullying, online predators, acts of violence, and other questionable content and behavior,” Jordan says. “It also gives parents the recommended best steps to deal with these issues.”
The “Now That You Have a Smartphone” Talk
“This device is a powerful tool that has the power to hurt others and yourself,” Jordan says for parents looking how to kick off conversations with new smartphone users. “Treat it with respect.”
Something else Jordan says families should consider — signing a family technology contract. Items such a contract could cover: set usage times, where the phone is allowed to be used, app approval, as well as taking and sending photos. “Have these are conversations before you give them the phone,” Jordan says. “Once you give the phone, it’s hard to dial back.
Parents should also be alert to potential phone addiction. Not just that of their kids, but their own. Modeling behavior can impact little ones. “If kids see that you can’t disconnect and you that you’re living your best life online and not in real life, that’s something to look at.”
Parents should also monitor their child’s mental health and grades once they become smartphone owners.
Jordan says, “Monitoring their quality of life is important once they get that phone in their hands.”
Tips for Buying First Smartphone — Sources
Titania Jordan, Technology Expert and Chief Parenting Officer at Bark