Your child is begging for one. They ask for it day and night. They even go so far as writing out all the reasons why they deserve it. There’s no question that giving your child their own phone in today’s world is just a matter of time. But it’s also a big decision to make, one that could have hefty consequences.
While you may not have gotten your first phone until you were a teenager, kids today are getting them much younger. Of course, bear in mind that every child is different. And every parent is different, too. That means it’s not always easy to know when to give your child a phone. There is, unfortunately, no ultimate guide book to parenting!
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your children from the internet and social media while also having a way to communicate with them. A kids phone is a simpler version of a smartphone with no social media, games, or internet browsing. It’s used primarily for communicating through phone calls and text messages, making it a good entry into the world of smartphones. Whether you go that route or not, here are three three signs your child may be ready for their first phone.
1. They Demonstrate Good Time Management
Kids have a lot on their plates these days. In addition to schoolwork, they also likely participate in at least one after-school activity. These extracurriculars quickly add up. From soccer practice to piano lessons to scouting, there are a lot of things for your child to juggle. Not to mention, there are a lot of activities for you as a parent to coordinate as well! A demonstration of good time management is one way to know your child is ready for their own phone.
Participating in all of these activities means your child needs to be engaged. They cannot be distracted by their phone or by anything else, for that matter. They also need to be diligent about their schedule. They know, for instance, that if they don’t get their homework done and earn poor grades, then they can’t play sports. They also know that they can’t stay up until midnight doing said homework and expect to play well on the field.
When your child asks for a phone, think about how they are managing their time currently. Are they prone to distraction or procrastination? If so, you might tell them you’re concerned a phone will only further distract them. Ask them to demonstrate for a period of time — say a month or so — that they can manage their time well. Doing so will help teach them early on that proper time management is a valuable skill.
2. They Have a Solid Sense of Responsibility
Having a phone is a privilege not to be taken lightly. It’s one thing to ruin a shirt due to an arts and crafts fiasco, but it’s another to lose or damage a phone. Your child should show a good sense of responsibility in order to have their own phone. This will look different for every child and also varies with their age.
One way to know your child is responsible is to give them a regular task. For instance, you can assign them a weekly chore like taking out the trash. If your child does this task without having to be asked each time, then they are demonstrating responsibility. If, however, you have to nag them about it or do it yourself, then they are lacking a sense of responsibility.
Teaching responsibility is a bit tricky. You can explain what responsibility looks like and have them model such behaviors. You can also work as a family to be more responsible by participating in a group volunteer activity. Giving back in some way is a good indicator of being responsible. Talk to your child about this important characteristic and why it matters before handing them over a brand-new phone.
3. They Communicate Openly
A third way to know whether your child is ready for a phone is if they are openly and honestly communicative. There will be a point in their lives when they will stop telling you everything. However, for the time being, you want your child to be open and willing to share with you. You shouldn’t have to pry things out of your kid every day to have a sense of what’s going on in their lives.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a more common phenomenon than parents would like to believe. Giving your child a kids phone will prevent their being picked on via social media, but nasty texts can still hurt. If your child does experience cyberbullying, you need to be confident that they’ll come to you for help. Ensuring your child is communicating with you from the start can help eliminate future problems.
Asking your child how their day was at school and getting a one-word response is not a sign of being communicative. You want your child to feel comfortable telling you what happened in the lunchroom, for instance. If you hear about things going on from other parents or the teacher, address them with your child. Discussing your own day and your feelings can demonstrate how talking can lead to a healthy, loving relationship.
You know what’s best for your child. And if they don’t show these three signs — regardless of their pleading — you’ll also know they aren’t ready for their own phone. Make it clear that if you give them a phone before they’re ready for one, you may have to take it away. Letting your child know of this potential consequence ahead of time can better prepare them and set them up for success.