“Can I have a smartphone?”
If you’re a parent of a teen or pre-teen, chances are you’ve heard this question. The question of when to purchase a smartphone for their child is a question parents agonize over. You want them to fit in, but are they ready for the responsibility? A smartphone lets you keep in touch with your child, but it could also be a distraction at school. Smartphones open the door to educational apps and social gaming, but they also can be portals to pornography, predators, and cyberbullying.
So what’s a parent to do? Mashable lists four questions parents might want to consider:
1. Does your child need the phone to stay connected with you or for emergency situations?
2. Does your child understand and respect the time and usage limits you have placed on other things like television and video game playing?
3. Does your child understand what types of apps are okay to download and how to surf the Internet safely?
4. Does your child know how to use the phone safely and appropriately? Do they know who and who not to communicate with? What they should and shouldn’t share online? What sorts of words and pictures not to send?
If you can answer yes to all four questions, your child may be ready to handle a smartphone. That doesn’t mean you should just hand over the phone with no questions asked, though. Before you purchase a smartphone for your child, have a family meeting and draw up a smartphone contract. Cover the rules that your family wants to set for cell phone use and put them in writing. Make sure you include safety issues and the dangers of oversharing online. Spell out talking and texting limits and establish consequences for misusing the device.
Once you get the smartphone you should set up safety protocols before you hand it over to your child. Make sure that the phone is password locked and set it to automatically lock after three minutes. Add important people and emergency numbers to the contact list. Download a security app like Lookout or Find My iPhone. You may also want to consider a parental control app like NetNanny for Android or AVG Family Safety for iPhone. Make sure that your child knows to only download apps from safe sources such as Google Play or the iTunes App store. For an extra level of control, set up the phone with your own purchasing password so your child has to come to you for approval before downloading any new apps. Once you hav e the phone secure, review your family smartphone contract again with your child before handing the device over.