One question I get asked the most is “when should kids have cell phones?” There are some parents, however, that adamantly tell me that they would NEVER allow their kids smartphones. Flip phones for the win, for them. I’m here to tell you, that would be a mistake.
Why I think kids should have cell phones
I always tell my kids that it is my job to teach them the skills they will need to be a successful adult. This conversation usually takes place when asked why they have to do their chores, or why they have to come with me to this boring thing, or really just about anything else they complain about. We give them chores to teach them how to work, and how to keep a clean house. We give them an allowance to teach them how to budget and how to save their money for things they want. So, my question to parents is how are you teaching your children to handle technology?
It drives me a little crazy when I see social media posts from parents claiming their children will only have access to a flip phone until they are 18! These types of parents can also be seen “bragging” about how their children will NEVER have a phone! Sheltering your children from technology will do more harm than good in the long run. I have a couple of reasons for this opinion.
Kids Won’t Learn Proper Use
Would you give your child a credit card when they turn 18 without ever having discussed and practiced using money properly? I’ve seen what that can do to a college student’s credit! You also shouldn’t just set your child out into the world with barely any knowledge of what they can do with a smartphone! You need to teach them and guide them on how to properly use the amazing things technology can do. When they are still in your house, you can punish them by taking their phone away.
Kids these days are digital natives. They are growing up with way more access to the world of technology than we could ever dream! It is very different from the way we grew up. It can be difficult for us to understand their world. However, we shouldn’t sit back and cut them off from technology, just because it was good enough for how we grew up. Do you know what else was good enough when we were growing up? Not wearing seatbelts or using booster seats. Technology changed to make us safer. Now we can’t imagine backing out of the driveway without making sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt.
While your children are still young you can shape their views and habits on technology. Should kids have cell phones, you can set time limits, and monitor their devices so when they do make a mistake you can help correct them. Through monitoring and communication, you can teach your children how to get the most out of technology and help them avoid the pitfalls.
They May Lose Friends
As much as you may not like your kids on social media, it is quickly becoming the primary form of communication for most teens. They no longer text, they use messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. They also use the messaging capabilities inherent in other social apps like Facebook and Instagram. To disallow access to all of these applications you are essentially cutting off their communication with their friends.
They won’t get invited places, and soon be left out completely. I’m not saying this will certainly happen, but I’ve seen it happen enough to know that it can. My friend Liz put this perfectly when she said: “no 14-year-old boy wants to text his friend’s mom to see if he can hang out”. It’s true. She thought her son liked to be by himself and didn’t like hanging out with friends… until she bought him a cell phone. It has made him MORE social in the real world now that he can communicate with his friends directly.
Not allowing social apps limits a child’s social growth whether we like it or not. Yes, these applications can be dangerous. In allowing them the freedom to communicate with their friends, you WILL be checking up on them. Use messaging monitoring apps like Bark and time limiting apps like Boomerang to make sure your children are doing and saying things that are appropriate. When they are caught doing things they shouldn’t, the punishment should fit the crime. Take their device away for a set period of time, or block access to specific applications.
However, make sure you aren’t allowing them access to social media apps that are restricted for their age. MOST social media applications require the child to be at least 13 years old to use.
Educate Yourself on kids smartphones
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com