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At what age should you buy your child a smartphone?

by Klikd, digital parenting
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At KLIKD we get asked this question daily! Device readiness is not about your child’s age. Device readiness is about your child’s maturity and accountability… how accountable is my child to him/herself, can they stand up for themselves in real life, can they support others when they are being treated unfairly or unkindly in real life?

How do they manage their schedule? Are they in a good sleep cycle, getting up and going to bed when agreed on in your family? The answers to these questions inform whether your child is ready for a phone far more easily (and truthfully) than saying, they must be ready now that they are 10.

Most importantly, as a parent you want to ask yourself if you are able to have an easy, comfortable conversation with your potential ‘screenager’ about the device ground rules, password sharing etc? Do you trust that your relationship with your child is solid enough for them to come to you when things online are a little tricky?

EEEK!! Should I allow my child to download the Apps his friends have?

Once your child has a phone, it is always first prize to download apps one at a time. So, if they want to be on a WhatsApp group, you would allow that first with you monitoring their engagement style, how they respond to others etc. Once you are comfortable you can add an app or two, ensuring that you check in with them and their way of relating to others.

Let them watch first!

At KLIKD we always suggest that, to begin with, younger kids just OBSERVE interactions before diving straight in. As a parent you can then ask how they might have dealt with situations before they actually put themselves out there. This gives you a chance to see if your child is really ‘app ready’. Of course, check out the age restrictions as guidelines too.

At what age should you buy your child a smartphone

Why are most parents buying their children smartphones?

“Please mom, all my friends have one” is the last sentence heard at night by most parents these days. Parents feel pressured by their children to get them a phone or hand over their old one when they upgrade. There’s no denying that the devices often act as fabulous baby sitters, especially during lockdown, so sharing your device with your child becomes challenging. Add to this our little ones manage to convince us it is their way of socialising now – “how else can I see my friends during Covid?” doesn’t really have an easy or satisfying answer for our tweens and so, too soon, our tweens have their own devices.

But we have to remember that we are giving our kids access to a powerful tool that can be used for good and not-so-good. When handing over that phone, even if it is because you felt pressured to do so, make sure that your child understands YOUR motives – that you want them to show up as kind, curious and engaged. We do not want our children to be passive consumers of content, but rather active and creative contributors. With this in mind, we suggest downloading our contract (you can find it here) – a fabulous ready-to-go document that you can stick on the fridge.

Do most parents download parental control monitoring apps?

Parents have good intentions but setting up controls frequently falls by the wayside. Many parents also feel a sense of trust that ‘it won’t happen to my child’ so they act on controls POST a crisis, rather than before. So, to put the basics in place, we suggest you follow KLIKD’s basic guide to control management.

Remember, although parental controls can certainly help in putting in place screen time limits, making explicit content harder to come across, when it comes to tech our kids will in most cases, outsmart us. The best parental control app is connected, engaged parents. Lastly, check out our video on ‘Can I check on my child’s phone?’ for clarity on issues around contracting, privacy, Finstagram accounts, etc.

Are there any signs or signals that would suggest a child is NOT ready for the responsibility of a smartphone?

The obvious sign for us at KLIKD is if they are not managing psycho-social situations offline. So, if a young girl finds it hard to socialise, or feels ‘less than’ some of her friends, you may want to work on building self-esteem offline before allowing her to go online.

Similarly, if impulse control is hard offline, it will be worse online. If time management is already a struggle, having a device will not improve it. Help your child to know that once they have mastered tasks that show responsibility, like getting up on time for example, you will feel more ready to consider getting them a phone.

Anything else a parent should consider when choosing whether or not to give their child a smartphone?

Controls are important, but connection and conversation will always trump device management. You can’t just set it and forget it. If your child believes that you will be the supportive and assisting parent before the judgmental and angry parent then they will come to you throughout the cycle of learning to own a device responsibly. Things will go wrong at some point and the relationship is the real protecting factor online.

READ NEXT: Why criticism is GOOD for your child & how to do it sensitively

We have to keep the conversations flowing; we have to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly in a light, non-judgmental way. This ensures that our children will come to us when mistakes happen.

Check out The KLIKD app (you can download it by clicking here), which helps kids learn how to manage their new online life safely, happily and with tech savvy! It covers all the areas we want our children to be aware of in a fun, accessible way for tweens AND it comes with parent conversation starters on all the hard topics like WhatsApp exclusion, bullying, finding porn on your phone – to ensure parents can keep the chats flowing.

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