When do you buy your kids a phone? It is a question asked by parents everywhere. But while parents aren’t sure, our kids would answer yesterday. Personally, I think that right now they are too young. But I know it is going to happen soon. They will win and I will end up giving in. This will happen partly out of necessity and partly out of my desire to not hear them whine about it anymore. But the question isn’t as simple as when, but also why kids would need a phone.
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Why would a kid need a phone?
This seems to be the first questions ever asked. Why would they need a phone? Who are they going to call? Ghostbusters! – sorry, couldn’t help my self. The simple answer is that phones make your kids’ life and by extension your life easier. Being able to reach you for a ride, or enabling you to call them and let them know when they are getting picked up, or that you are going to be late is a huge benefit.
Besides if we are being honest, what we call just a phone hasn’t truly been a just phone for a long time.
Ok, so it isn’t a phone what is it?
Ok, let make it simple. Phones are those things hanging on your parents or grandparents wall. They are ugly, clunky and with the exception of telemarketers used by basically no one under 70.
The things we carry around in our pockets are more personal computers than phones. Just look at everything they can do. They can play games, movies, and music. It is a planner, map, stopwatch and alarm clock. They have cameras, photo editors and a way to get the news. They have the ability to track your kids’ location, track their internet usage, and keep your kids only a text message away. Oh, and they make phone calls, I always forget about that part.
A phone simply isn’t for making calls anymore. It can do that but it has been a long time since that was its primary purpose. The question isn’t who are they going to call, it is what are they going to do?
When should you buy your kid a phone?
Let’s assume you are buying into my incredibly persuasive argument above. So the question now is when should you buy one for your kids? Unfortunately, it as simple as just giving you an age. There are a number of factors you need to take into account before you buy your kid a shiny new present from Apple or if you want to disappoint them Samsung or Google. Ok, actually those companies both make great products but I am a proud member or team iPhone so deal with it.
The first and most important in my eyes is maternity. These devices are expensive. I don’t want to worry about broken screens, wet or god forbid lost phones. Right now, I don’t believe either of my girls could do it. But let’s say that they are mature enough for a phone. They will take care of it and never take it out of its case. Now you need to ask what their days look like?
Are they traveling to school or around town on a bus or train? Do they like many other modern kids have a ton of afterschool activities? Do you work a job that leaves them alone a lot? All of these and more needs to be taken into account before you decide to buy a phone.
There is still one more thing to worry about.
A blessing and a curse, social media rules our lives. It gives us access to millions of people while at the same time giving those same millions of people access to us. This opens our kids up to any number of unsavory individuals and their dastardly goals. But even if your kids are able to avoid the online scoundrels and bullies they still have another person that could ruin their lives online. Them.
Kids today are sharing more about their lives than ever before. They are sharing stories, pictures, thoughts and more all in 280 characters or less. If they are not careful, the things post could follow them for the rest of their lives.
I don’t know about you but I am very happy that when I was a kid none of my friends had a camera with them every minute of every day. There would be more than a few pictures I would be explaining to my kids AND to potential employers. Nothing is ever truly deleted on the internet. While it might be funny now it could be devastating to their future.
How I plan to deal with this
While it is impossible to completely protect them while using these devices there are things you can do. The biggest and most important is to keep an eye on your kid’s phone. Every password must be shared with you allowing you to see all of their social media. You need to track their downloads and which apps they are using.
One way to do this is to make it clear that the phone is yours. You can and will check the phone at any time. Also since it is yours, you can put any apps you want on the phone. Apps on the IOS App Store such as OurPact or Screen Guide Parental Controls that let you remotely control how much time they can spend on the phone or which apps they can download and use. For older kids, you might also want an app like Saferkid Text Monitoring that tracks every text or email sent.
Isn’t that an Invasion of their privacy?
There are two ways to answer this. The short answer is yes. But the long answer is a lot more interesting It’s a “no but” answer.
I don’t view it as an invasion, because there is never any privacy, to begin with. I plan to be very upfront that nothing on that phone is private. Not the messages, not their social media accounts, not their email, not their location or browsing history, not their pictures, nothing.
Even the physical phone its self is mine, not theirs. The way I look at it is you wouldn’t expect privacy in the middle of a city street. Well, their digital life is going to be on my street. This might not be fair, and as they get older they will be given more control over their phone. But as long as I am paying for the phone I am making the rules.
Enough talk, answer the question. When should you buy your kid a phone?
In summation, I don’t see a set age it is ok to give your kids
In my case, my oldest will probably get the phone when she is 10 or 11. She is already pretty responsible and with her sports schedule only getting busier, it will be a good way for us to communicate and for me to keep tabs on her.
My other daughter has a long way to go before she is responsible and mature enough for a phone. Currently, she is on track to get her phone when she is 35. I hope for my sanities sake she matures a little bit faster.
In any case, the answer is the same as many other questions I endeavor to answer on this blog. Be involved. Watch your kids. it won’t solve every problem, but man does it ever reduce them. Good luck, and get them an iPhone they will be happier.