Should you give your child a mobile phone? Read This First

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If you have a teenager or teenager who doesn’t have a cell phone, we’re willing to bet they asked for one. But when is the right time to buy the first mobile phone for your kids?

Tech billionaire Bill Gates was known to ban cell phones to his kids until they were 14. Steve Jobs allegedly was against giving his children an iPhone or iPad. Other Silicon Valley giants have expressed concern that their children will be exposed to technology too early.

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While there is an undeniable temptation to follow in the footsteps of these tech icons, some of us live in the real world without the luxury of paid parental support, including full-time nannies, housekeepers, and drivers. As much as we’d like to keep technology at arm’s length, the fact is that we live in a wired world and we may need to rely on cell phones to make parenting more manageable and keep our kids safe.

We spoke with tech experts Ian O’Byrne, digital literacy researcher, former schoolteacher and host of the Technopanic podcast, and Michelle Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, about how to determine the right age to give your child their first mobile phone. phone, and hopefully how to make your foray into technology a success for your family.

At what age is it best to give a child a mobile phone?

Don't let arbitrary age dictate when to give your child a cell phone.

While it is generally accepted that a child gets their first mobile phone in high school, both experts explained that there is no universally correct answer for the best age to get a mobile phone.

“It’s important that we don’t just stick a stake in the ground and say there’s one particular moment that’s right and not a moment before,” says Lipkin. “There are so many factors to consider… There are ways to give your child a mobile phone at the right age for your family and make sure they [a positive choice] for your family.”

Why does your child need a mobile phone?

Think about your family's needs and dynamics to determine if there is a real need for a mobile phone.

This is the first question these experts recommended you ask yourself. If your child’s “need” is to connect with friends or keep up with outside pressure from classmates, you can probably use a Chromebook or tablet for now.

However, there are many good reasons to give your child a mobile phone at an earlier age. If your kids rely on getting home in any way, or if they spend a significant amount of time alone, then both are good reasons to give them a cell phone at an earlier age.

How do you know if your child is ready for a cell phone?

How your child behaves offline will be a good determinant of how they will behave with a mobile phone.

Lipkin and O’Byrne both say that if your child shows signs of media responsibility, it’s a good sign that they may be responsible enough to own a cell phone. Learn how well they are able to take care of their current devices and how well they are able to turn them off at the right time.

“If they don’t have good control over their impulses when it’s time to turn off their tablet or TV, setting boundaries with their phone can be even more difficult,” says O’Byrne.

He also said that a good litmus test for readiness could be the simple observation that a child who doesn’t know how to take care of a phone or device is probably not ready for it.

“Give them the responsibility of caring for and storing their devices. Let them show the level of responsibility needed to keep them energized and take care of them,” he says. This means devices must be connected to the network and stored in a safe and secure place when not in use.

O’Byrne explains that it’s all about showing a certain level of responsibility. If they can’t be trusted to track the device and charge it, then they probably can’t be trusted to choose the right mobile phones either, which requires more responsibility.

“If you let them know from the start that it’s not just a toy, but a responsibility, they’re more likely to treat it like a toy,” says O’Byrne.

How can I keep my children’s mobile phones safe?

Look for phones with good parental controls, and we recommend keeping phones out of bedrooms at all times.

There are many parental control options that can be downloaded to your mobile phone. Bark is popular and the iPhone has parental controls already integrated into its operating system. Keep in mind, however, that today’s kids are smart and in many cases more tech-savvy than their parents. There are many ways to get around these controls, and kids are always trading tips on how to cheat the system with their friends.

O’Byrne and Lipkin advise establishing clear and enforceable rules for mobile phone use so that boundaries are clear and children can make the right choices for their overall well-being.

O’Byrne talks about a colleague who prefers to keep all phones and devices out of bedrooms at night, and we have to say we’re fans of this method. A quick search of Facebook and Reddit parent groups will reveal that most of the most egregious misjudgments take place behind closed doors in the nursery, when left to their own devices (pun intended).

The Family Charging Dock is a smart investment to promote and model responsible mobile phone ownership. Charging all of your family’s devices in one place eliminates the privacy inherent in using a cell phone and allows kids to mimic the responsibility you take on taking care of your devices. In general, it is easier to educate, manage and control your child’s level of responsibility if their devices are in the public domain.

For Darby Saxby, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California and director of the USC Center for the Changing Family, the family rule is that screens should be public and focused.

Publicity means that her children do not spend time on a solitary screen. By purposefulness, she means the absence of aimless browsing. The goal, she says, is to mitigate the trend towards non-directional scrolling, which can both take time and put kids in less-than-ideal situations.

“If they want to watch a show, we watch this particular show. If they need an iPad, they want to play a specific game. No aimless scrolling on social media and no surfing YouTube from clip to clip – I think these are especially fun ways. participate, she says.

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Which mobile phone is best for kids?

Our parenting editor loves the Gabb as the first mobile phone for kids.

This is a big question. There are phones for kids that have been created specifically for teenagers and are designed to protect children from the dangers they may face on social media.

For young children, our Parenting Editor Anna Lane recommends the Gabb Wireless mobile phone. You can read her full review here. Some of the standout features that Lane liked best about the Gabb phone were unlimited conversations and texting, and active GPS tracking when Internet and social media access is denied or restricted.

Gabb phone shop

Depending on its age, the iPhone SE gets good reviews from both testers and parents. It’s relatively economical, it’s more reliable than some of the larger, more open-screen smartphones, and it comes with family-friendly controls.

Our accessibility editor Sarah Kovacs recently gave her 9-year-old daughter an iPhone SE and considers it a good entry-level choice. Kovacs personally uses Android, but she says she loves the iPhone’s parental controls, which is why she uses an old iPhone to control her kids’ usage.

“The phone itself is small and sturdy, and I have an app that shows me her location and other security information. She is on the bus with her little sister who has medical needs, so I am very happy that she has someone with her who can contact me or vice versa. I also feel better when she visits friends in the neighborhood, knowing that I can drop by anytime,” says Kovacs.

Whatever phone you start with, we recommend that you start small. A child doesn’t need the latest and greatest Android or iPhone.

Buy Apple Phones

First define your boundaries

Figure out what the rules will be long before you give your child a phone and explain those rules clearly.

Don’t wait to figure out your cell phone usage limits until you give your child a phone. Before you buy their first mobile phone, think about this: do you plan to track their messages? Do you want to block access to certain social networking sites? Will you allow phones in their rooms unattended? What time do cell phones turn off every night?

Having clear boundaries from the start helps prevent future power struggles.

Lipkin says: “We need to talk about technology and media with our kids. Conflicts arise because there are no clear rules or talk about them. You need to be clear about how the family will interact with technology.”

O’Byrne agrees and recommends discussing the rules and restrictions with your child before they even buy their first mobile phone. “Really, it’s all about building healthy conversations from the start. If you have it, it shouldn’t be so scary and everyone will feel more prepared.”

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