Technology helped change how we communicate and retrieve information. Thanks to smartphones, it’s now easier to access information via the Internet and communicate with anyone 24/7. Smartphones also help parents keep in touch with their kids. If they’re stuck in traffic or still in a meeting, it’s easier to tell them that they’ll be late. These are some of the reasons why parents allow their kids and tweens to have smartphones. Smartphones offer convenience and instant communication.

However, online safety advocates warn parents about living a “plugged-in life”. According to Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 National Survey: 8-to-18-year-olds spend 7 hours and 38 minutes of media time. This doesn’t include the time they spent on calls and sending text messages. These are valid cyber parenting concerns which every parent needs to consider. Outweighing the advantages and disadvantages of giving your kid a smartphone is difficult.

How will you know if your kid is smartphone-ready? Here are some questions to guide you in making that critical decision.

Does my child or tween really need one?

For most children and tweens, owning a smartphone is considered as a milestone. However, some parents still hesitant to allow their kids unrestricted access to the Internet and social media. Dr. Michael Rich, Founder and Director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, believes that smartphones are essential tools for communication. Just like other media devices (television and computers), Dr. Rich believes that “They are very effective tools for doing certain tasks and children only ‘need’ them when they are the best tool for the task, like calling home to be picked up after a soccer practice or play rehearsal.” If a smartphone is to be used to communicate or keep tabs on your children, you’ll be the judge if your tween or child really needs it.

Are there risks of giving my child a smartphone?

Owning any type of communication device has its risks. In an infographic published by the Huffington Post; it showed that children who spend more time on their screens are at risk of cardiovascular diseases when they enter adulthood. Also, playing too much mobile applications could affect a child’s developing tendons and muscles. An hour spent playing on their smartphones would lead to sore wrists and fingers.

Would my kid benefit from using a smartphone?

Given the above-mentioned risks of kids owning smartphones; there are also benefits. Aside from opening lines of communication, smartphones are essential tools in training our kids for the digital age. It also teaches them about Internet safety, online etiquette, and respecting the privacy of other people. Smartphones can help your kid understand the value of digital literacy.

Is your kid or tween mature enough to understand home or school rules re: smartphone usage?

Determining if your kid or tween is mature enough will depend on you as a parent. Start by having conversations with your child about smartphones. Tell them the family’s or the school’s rules re: smartphone usage. Discussing these with your kid or tween helps set the rules on device usage at home or in school. You should also inform them about the possible consequences for the unauthorized use of their smartphones, or if they damage or lose their units. Proper guidance and frequent conversations between parents and children will help avoid tension between family members.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution in determining if your kid or tween is smartphone ready. Kids mature differently and it’s up to us parents to guide them. Visit the MomSecure website to get tips on how to protect your child’s innocence.