When Should a Tween get a Smart Phone of their Own?
Tough question right? Maybe you’ve been Googling it, or asking advice from parents you know who have tween children. Chances are you aren’t going to find the exact answer you’re looking for because cell phones should be a privilege given to kids only after certain requirements are met. So with each child and their family structure being unique, I think it’s important to consider lifestyle, behavior and maturity before handing over a smart phone to your tween.
I have two tween-aged kids who are just a year apart in age. My ten-year old daughter has had a cell phone for over a year while my nine-year old son does not have one and likely won’t for a while. Why? I came up with a list of questions that can be general guidelines when trying to make a decision.
Whose Idea was it for my Tween to have their own Smart Phone?
My husband and I had been considering letting our daughter have a phone well before she knew about the idea. Between after school activities, her fairly responsible nature, and close friends with apps they enjoyed we decided to give her a phone for her birthday. We wanted to be able to get ahold of her if she was at an activity or friend’s house.
If it was your child’s idea then maybe you should consider why they want a phone. Is it because their friends all have one and they feel left out? Will they be included in the conversation if they have a phone or will the feelings of being left out get worse? If they feel nervous when you’re a few minutes late picking them up from a sport then their reasons for wanting a phone are probably valid.
Which Type of Smart Phone should I get my Tween?
Again, each family probably has their own needs when it comes to which make of phone to get their child. If you’re looking for something simple without internet or apps, an old flip phone works for texting and calling. Looking to get your kid the latest and greatest? An iPhone is always a popular choice. Kids don’t usually need a lot of data, storage, or an exceptional camera to start. Let them work their way up from the bottom. After all, most of us parents didn’t even have those old flip phones until we were teens or young adults.
Should I let my Tween Download Apps?
Research, research, research. I can’t say this enough. Just because their friend has an app doesn’t mean it’s safe for a child to use. Keep the password to the app store private so they have to verify any downloads with you first. It’s okay to say no! My kids have been trying to convince me they need a certain game on their phone/tablet for months but after some research I decided against letting them have the app. They do have several fun and popular apps that have been approved by me on their phone or tablet.
No child is safe browsing online. It’s just as simple as that. Smart phones have parental settings to help you out a little bit in this department. For example, the iPhone allows you to restrict access to the internet, camera, music, in-app purchases, and block installing and deleting apps. You can also set rating limits for movies, shows, books, apps and websites, or add a list of allowed websites only. My point is that these settings are on the phone so use them! It’s better to keep the phone as secure and safe as possible at first and then decide which setting can be edited after some use. Too many parents find that their child has accessed something they shouldn’t have before adding the restrictions.
Let’s touch on social media a bit because it’s a big reason why tweens want their own phones. Consider the idea that tweens don’t have the maturity to understand what it means for the world to see pictures of them, status updates, or jokes about people they know. Do tweens really realize how the classmate feels when she’s been made fun of on Snapchat? How about that Instagram post where everyone was invited except your tween? You may think it’s no big deal but to your tween, that is their world. To them it is a very big deal.
What if your child becomes the bully? Most kids are likely to add a small dig here and there on social media. They think they’re being funny or they’re jealous, or mad. Your child is not immune to bullying or being bullied. What we do know is that kids on social media without parental oversight often make mistakes with their posts.
If you’re letting your child have a social media account do your research. Be their friend online. Keep all their passwords handy, and check the account on their phone often.
Allowing your tween to have their own phone is a big step for both them and you so do your research and look at your family’s individual needs when deciding how old your child should be when they get their first smart phone.