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To Smartphone? Or, not to Smartphone?

Focus on the “Why”… and the “When” will be a lot easier.

“When should we give our children their own smartphones?”  Spoiler alert!  There is absolutely no consensus on how to answer this fundamental question for raising kids in the Digital Era.  The most common and most logical recommendation goes something like, “there is no specific age at which a smartphone should (or should not) be given to a child.  Rather, parents should determine the right time based on their child’s maturity.”  Again, not very helpful.

FamPlan provides strategies and actions parents can take to give their children a head-start at maintaining a healthy relationship with their digital devices, reaping the rewards we have all been promised, and hopefully, avoiding the dire outcomes so many of us fear.  We organize these strategies into four, easy to learn categories.  Model – Delay – Manage – Connect  In our previous post, Kids and Smartphones… Be a Good Role Model, we described the concept of parents as positive role models.  This blog post explains the concepts of “Delaying” your child’s smartphone all together.

The only strategy that ensures your child will not experience the negative consequences of having a smartphone is to Delay giving them one.

Rather than ask “when should my child receive a smartphone”?  Ask the question a bit differently, and from your own perspective.

Why do WE (parents) want our child to have a smartphone?

This is a question you have a chance of answering.  But first, let’s quickly review why you might NOT want your child to have a smartphone.  For all of the research we have done on this topic, no person or group has stated the challenges associated with “Kids and Smartphones” more succinctly than Wait Until 8th (go check them out).  Founder and Mom, Brooke Shannon sums it up like this, “concerns over social and relational impairment, as well as addiction, distraction, depression, and exposure to mature content.”  Whoa!  This is scary!  At a minimum, it should cause you to pause and consider your options.

So with all of the potential bad outcomes related to smartphones, why do so many parents decide to give them to their children at increasingly younger ages?  (Kid’s and Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives citing 2016 statistics states “kids are getting a first [smart]phone at 10.3 years old“.)  Of course, we hear many answers.  However, the one answer that almost every parent we interview includes in their response is, “we (parents) need the ability to be connected with our kids”.  Some parents qualify this statement with “in an emergency”.  Others cite the complexity and urgency of their busy schedules.  The point is, we all gave our kids a phone for the ability to connect with them when we are not together.

As honorable as our intentions may have been, in many families, connecting with our children via their smartphone regarding urgent and/or important matters represents a small fraction of how we (and they) use our devices.  As parents, it is our responsibility to determine when the Need of having a smartphone outweighs the Risk of having a smartphone.  And unfortunately, FamPlan cannot tell you when you should make that call.  We can offer this simple advice;

Parenting Tip… If they do not need a smartphone… Or, if they have not earned a smartphone… they do not get a smartphone.

In summary, delaying the day you give your child a smartphone ensures that they are safe from the potential negative impacts of having a smartphone.  And, whether you “Wait Until 8th” or you decide your child is mature enough for a smartphone earlier, always remember Your Why.  And finally, don’t be overly worried about what you ultimately decide.  There are strategies for ensuring your child’s smartphone experience is safe and productive.  We will share some of those strategies in our next post, “Manage the Phone… Not the Child“.

And, until next time #DoMoreHappy