As the parent of a teenager you’ll find yourself starting to sound like your own mother. If your teen has begun asking begging for a smart phone, your reaction is likely to be something like this: “When I was in high school, I had to stand in the middle of the kitchen to talk to my friends! Our whole family shared ONE phone!”
While there are things to consider before getting your child a smartphone, you are far too young to turn into your mother just yet. Take a deep breath, tell your teen that you are considering the pro’s and con’s of getting her a smartphone and think things through. Use the following handy list to help you make a decision.
1. Can You Afford It?
Buying a smartphone is a significant purchase. Even if you find a deal that offers a smartphone at a greatly reduced cost, you will find yourself locked into both a cell and a data plan for at least one year. Ask family and friends about their smartphone bills to get a true idea of the cost. Consider buying a refurbished cell phone before seeking out a plan.
2. Does Your Teen Really NEED A Smartphone?
Most parents like their teens to carry some sort of phone, especially if they are driving. A regular cellphone provides this option and at a greatly reduced price. This might be a time to teach your teen about some financial responsibility and the difference between want and need. Tell her you are willing to contribute the cost of a regular cellphone and she can earn her own money to make up the difference if she continues to insist on a cellphone.
3. Is Your Child Ready For A Cellphone?
There is a reason we do not send teens off to live on their own – they are incredibly prone to making terrible decisions! As a parent, it is your job to do your research and understand what a smartphone allows your child to do. A smartphone gives your child access to the internet with no supervision. A smartphone allows your child to take and send pictures anywhere without your permission. (Look up Snapchat if you do not know what it is.) A smartphone allows your child to download movies and music on his own.
For every app promising parental control of their child’s smartphone, there is a teenager out there figuring out how to work around those apps. While the control apps can be helpful, don’t rely on them entirely. You must stay abreast of trends and new apps that are popular with young people.
Also consider if your teen is responsible enough to take care of a smartphone. Is she apt to lose her belongings or treat them poorly? What will your plan be if she loses or destroys the phone?
Finally, does you struggle now with your teen about too much screen time – games, computer? A smartphone is not likely to improve those challenges.
4. Give Your Child Guidelines
Many parents have their teen sign a contract listing the rules for having a smartphone. Whether you draw up a contract or simply sit down and have a serious conversation, there are a few key things you will want to discuss.
- Texting and driving
- Sexting, provacative/inappropriate pictures
- Curfew on phone usage
- The ways predators can use a smartphone’s GPS to determine your child’s location
- Answering phone calls – especially mom and dad’s
- Who owns the phone and right to privacy (or lack thereof)
Every teen is different. Some are mature enough to handle the responsibility of a smartphone, some aren’t. Decide what is right for your family at this moment in time. You’re the grown up and you know your child best.