The holidays are around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about presents. No, not your presents — the ones you’re going to buy your kids.
A popular gift on almost every child’s list is a new phone. But is that something your child is ready for? You want your kids to be able to keep in touch with you. That said, it’s not always ideal to provide unlimited internet or text access to your children. Before you consider buying your child a phone this holiday season, take these steps to ensure you and your child are prepared.
Step 1: Determine Whether Your Child Is Ready
There are many different schools of thought when it comes to buying a phone for kids. Some parents want to wait until their child is a certain age. Others, however, will buy their child a phone before they even enter kindergarten.
The truth is, there’s no “perfect” age for kids to be introduced to these devices. With that said, there are certain traits your child should have before they get a phone, for example:
Before handing your child their first phone, make sure they’re mature enough to handle the responsibility. While phones can help your kids stay connected, they can also hinder their ability to connect with people in the real world. Make sure your child is able to hold a conversation, understands non-verbal communication, and can handle conflict in a constructive way.
Of course, your kids are young and still building their social skills. They won’t be excellent communicators, but if your child struggles socially, you should wait to buy them a phone.
Ability to Follow Rules
To keep kids safe while using technology, they need clear rules and boundaries. (We’ll discuss that more later). If your child isn’t able to follow rules, they probably aren’t ready for a phone. After all, a child who doesn’t want to listen to their parents may not always make the best decisions. On the other hand, if you trust your child to obey you, buy them a phone this holiday season.
Responsibility With Belongings
Does your child have a habit of losing their personal belongings? How likely are they to leave their phone on the school bus or in the bathroom at a restaurant? If the answer is yes, your child isn’t ready for a phone quite yet.
That’s okay, though. Sometimes it takes a while for kids to learn responsibility. You can assign chores and put consequences in place for when they lose an item or forget to do something. You can make your child responsible for caring for a pet or even helping with their younger siblings. Anything you can do to help them feel more responsible can allow them to have agency over their decisions.
Awareness of the Pitfalls
It’s important your child understands the risks that come with having their own phone. Don’t scare them, but make sure they know the dangers. Talk to your child about cyberbullying and the impact social media can have on them. Don’t be afraid to get specific. The more your child knows, the more educated they’ll be. If they won’t listen or hold a conversation with you about this serious topic, they aren’t ready for a phone.
Step 2: Implement These Safeguards
According to Common Sense Media, over half of parents think their children spend too much time looking at a screen. In another study, a majority of parents said they feared their children will be exposed to inappropriate content online. To keep your kid safe, don’t just buy a phone and hand it directly to them. Make sure you put safeguards in place beforehand, for example:
Turn on Adult Content Filters
Before you give your child their first phone, ask your mobile provider to turn on adult content filters. This keeps kids from gaining access to inappropriate sites on their device. You can also add your own filters to your Wi-Fi so your child won’t be able to access anything inappropriate.
Set Screen Limits
We’ve mentioned the importance of setting limits for your child’s phone usage. This is something you can manage yourself, but you can also download apps or turn on features already on the phone. For example, IOS offers a feature called Screen Limit. To access this, you simply go into settings, click “Screen Limit” and then “See All Activity.”
Screen Time doesn’t just let you know how much time your child is spending on their phone. It’ll show exactly where their time is being spent. For example, is your child spending more time on Instagram than on an educational website? This app will show you that. You can even restrict the apps your child has access to via Screen Limit.
Set Up Passwords
Before handing your child a new phone, set up a PIN they’ll use to gain access to the phone. Make sure you know the password. This will ensure a stranger won’t gain access to your child’s phone if they lose it. You should also set up a password that only you know for the Apple store. This way your child won’t be able to buy apps without your knowledge.
Turn on Tracking
Trust us, you’re going to want to turn the tracking feature on your child’s phone. Regardless of how responsible they are, chances are, they’ll lose their phone at least once. Not only will you be able to find their phone when it’s lost, but you’ll also be able to find your child. For instance, say they’re running late from school and not answering their phone. By tracking their phone, you’ll see exactly where your child is.
As a parent, buying your child their first phone can be scary. These tips can make you feel more confident and ready to take on this next chapter with your family’s newest phone owner.