What’s the right age to get your child their first smartphone?

At what age should parents allow their children to drive is not a dilemma anymore. Now, parents face a much trickier question: When they should get their child a smartphone?

A smartphone is a gateway to unrestricted internet access. The internet is both a boon and a bane for parents. Letting your teen drive a car is not that difficult a decision as there are legalities of age limit. They either have to be 16, or 18 years of age. With smartphones, there is no legal guideline that can assist the parents in determining the right age for their child to have a smartphone.

Children are now owning smartphones at a very young age and it’s a hot debate whether they should be allowed to have them. According to research conducted by the Influence Central, children are now getting their first smartphones at the age of 10 which is a drop from the age of 12 in 2012. Internet safety experts report that children as young as second graders have their own smartphones now. Furthermore, they suggest that this age limit is going to reduce further as parents have become tired of handing their smartphones over to their kids.

No doubt, there are tons of benefits of smartphones. These devices are great for both educational and entertainment purpose. There are apps for connecting with friends and family. But then, there is unfiltered information on the internet and a simple search of something innocent could bring up results that are offensive or inappropriate for your child. There are sexting apps and social media apps which are a playfield for cyber bullies, harassers, and sexual predators who are on the prowl to lure young minds. These digital dangers are not for the young only; children of other ages aren’t safe either.

When is a child ready?

How do you know or decide the right time? One important thing to remember is that no two kids are same. A child’s age is not as important as his own maturity or responsibility level.

Deciding the appropriate age for your child to have a smartphone has more to do with your child rather his age in years. What parents can do is see how their child normally interacts with the other technology in their lives. The second thing is their maturity level. Are they smart enough to understand the idea of privacy online? Have you educated them about relationship safety and what to share on the websites and online platforms? Do they show a good judgment in what they upload on their social media accounts? All of these things are very important in determining if they are ready to have their own smartphone yet.

Having a personal smartphone opens up a myriad of ethical decisions for children and the readiness to make those decisions varies by age.

Determining the right time:

So what’s the takeaway from this discussion?  Well, it’s better to wait for as long as you can in giving them a smartphone. According to some experts, the ideal age is 12 while others suggested 14. But they agree that the latter is safer because smartphones are addictive distractions. They distract you constantly with text message pings, Facebook, and Instagram notifications and expose your children to sexting, online harassment, and bullying from a young age.

Both tweens and teens today, face a lot of social pressure in regards to having a smartphone. Teenage social life is almost impossible without having a smartphone. Currently, the parents are facing a no-win situation. The compulsive texting addiction is growing at a rapid pace and, there is no option left except all or nothing. Either you can get addicted or just stop using phones.

But, this cannot be a solution. People today want to stay connected to their friends and family. According to a survey, 98% of the parents say that the reason their children own their own phones is so they can get in touch with them no matter where they are. It is comforting to know that your parents are just a call away.

How can parents curb the negative effects?

If you have decided to let your children have smartphones, you should know what measures you will be taking to control the adverse effects. Smartphones are designed in such a way that you get addicted to it without trying to even. You can start with some small changes. Limit your phone use and turn it off for some hours.

Here are some of the things that parents can do if they have finally decided to get their child a smartphone:

Teach Responsibility:

Before you hand over a smartphone to your child, it is essential to test the waters first. You have to assess if they can use these devices responsibly.

There are ways to set limits. Some parents come up with contracts that outline their expectations for smartphone use. Parents can make a list of rules of smartphone use that should let them know all the harms of sexting, getting close with strangers or giving out personal information to unknown people. Parents should tell their children that there will be consequences of breaking these rules and the child should sign this list as an agreement before they get their phone.

Remember, that some of these rules will also center on your own phone use. Your child learns from you and will use the device safely and responsibly if you do the same. But as children grow up and reach their teenage, parents should also be considerate of their privacy and resort to doing spot checks only. With age, children are able to better understand their online responsibilities.

Use Parental Controls:

There are both phone settings and parental controls which can help in keeping your child safe when they begin using smartphones. Android phones do not come with parental control settings but using smart apps such as Xnspy allow parents to take the necessary actions and add restrictions. Xnspy lets parents monitor text messages, call records, chats, and web browsing history and even lock the smartphone remotely.

These little steps can help parents greatly in controlling the addictive qualities of the smartphone.

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