The Internet has become the modern sign of freedom. Unfettered access to information, entertainment, and communication made smartphones a must-have for kids. A smartphone gives its user the power to open every corner of the internet became a major cyber parenting concern. Although, smartphones have become important tools of communication, some parents are still on the fence about giving their tweens smartphones. They believe that these devices might open their children to risks such as smartphone addiction and developing an impulsive behavior. In fact, in a study conducted by Common Sense Media; 50 percent of the children are addicted to their smartphones while 36 percent of parents argue with their tweens about using their devices.

Deciding when to allow your kids to own smartphones is a virtual tug-of-war. We want to give in to their wants but we know what’s best for them. Given the potential and problems of owning a handheld device, when it the right age to get a smartphone for tweens?

What age?

In an interview with the New York Times, Jesse Weinberger, an Ohio-based Internet Safety Speaker, said that “The longer you keep Pandora’s box shut, the better off you are”. Without a connection to the Internet (or the “Dark Side” as he called it), children won’t be exposed to sexting, child predators, and cyber bullies. According to some experts, smartphones can be distractions to home and school work. The ideal age for children to own a smartphone would be 14.

In the same interview, Common Sense Media’s Chief Officer, James P. Steyer, believes that children should first learn self-restraint and the importance of face-to-face communication. For him, every kid and tween are unique and there is no ideal number. A tween or child’s maturity level will help parents decide if he or she is ready to own a smartphone.

Are they ready for a smartphone?

The generation gap is a factor when it comes to deciding if a kid is ready for a smartphone. Most parents grew up using libraries or asking their parents as credible sources of information. Today, information is readily available on the internet. Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Center, reminds parents to, “put aside the fear and try to make some judgments, not based on what we think is right in terms of what we did as a kid, but what makes sense in this environment.” Our responsibility is to teach them to become critical thinkers. She also recommends us to be open with their children. Let’s explain our fears to them (especially to our tweens) and know why they want a smartphone. It’s the best opportunity for us to show them how to use technology responsibly.

How to set rules to protect kids from online risks?

Setting rules is tough for any parent, and we don’t want to argue with our tween about using their device. However, parents still need to set rules to protect their kids from online risks. MomSecure’s cyber security agents can help parents customize and modify the restrictions on their kids’ devices. Some of these restrictions include content filtering, site filtering, and unauthorized in-app transactions. Tweens may be in-tune with today’s technology but they’re not mature enough moderate themselves.

When it comes to setting rules about smartphone us, it’s best to discuss it with your kid or tween. Let them know why these rules are important. Expect arguments and resistance but everything will work out. Set the rules together and help them build trust. In the end, they’ll realize it’s for their own good.

Deciding when to give your kid a smartphone is tough, but living in the Age of information is tougher for your kid or tween. Walk with them through their digital journey, discuss its dangers, and listen to what they have to say. It’s easier to make decisions this way.

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