Does My Kid Really Need a Smartphone?

Smartphones. It’s a love-hate relationship, isn’t it? And that’s just between you and your smartphone. Now your kids are asking for one too. (If it hasn’t come up yet, just wait. It’s coming.)

When we were kids, it was the trendiest sweaters and sneakers we pined for. Now kids talk about the latest iPhone or Galaxy before it’s even on YOUR radar. And the guilt tripping. Oh, the guilt tripping. It goes something like, “Kelsey and Hannah’s parents got them smartphones, and if you don’t give me one, you’re the worst mom ever! I’ll have no friends!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you are in no way the worst mom ever. Not at all. Far from it! And another thing: some kids might actually benefit from a smartphone. Hear me out.

There a couple big benefits to kids having smartphones, including:

Instant Communication

Running late? No sweat! Now you can adjust plans on the fly and communicate directly with your soccer star without having to call the coach. Or say they’re at a play date or the movies and not feeling well. They can let you know – you’re just a phone call away. Smartphones are convenient, and provide serious peace of mind.

Smarter Students

Between news apps, educational apps, time management apps, and all the other apps, there are plenty of ways kids can use smartphones to excel in school. They can schedule practices, study, learn, keep track of deadlines and exams, and juggle everything kids need to balance nowadays — all from the palm of their hands.

But also, some downsides. Big ones.

Time Suck

If only smartphones were just for learning (sigh). With all the entertainment and social media apps, kids’ attention spans and impulse control can suffer, all while heightening their need for instant gratification. They have to stay on top of every new photo and quip from friends. They obsessively respond, like or add new posts of their own. It’s addicting, really. And it leaves less time to actually engage with the real people right in front of them, or just like, do their homework.

Money Pit

Smartphones are expensive! There’s the device itself, plus the talk, text and data plans, the insurance, the hottest new phone cover they MUST have. One way to save is to go with an oldie but a goodie — your old phone or one that’s been refurbished. You can also find new smartphones in the $99 range. Kids don’t need the hottest, hippest phone on the market. Besides, kids lose things (and break things), including smartphones.

Sleep Disrupter

With smartphones, we’re always plugged in. When it’s 3 a.m. and your tween should be sleeping, they’re Snapchatting. Screen time before bed has been shown to disrupt sleep, not to mention nonstop exposure to screens can cause eye strain.

But let’s face it – all those cons kind of apply to you too, and you probably still have a smartphone. And what mom doesn’t love peace of mind. If the time comes to give in to the guilt tripping, here are some tips for giving your kid a smartphone without them turning into an always-on zombie with a bad case of text neck.

Establish Rules

Have some rules, like no texting after 9 p.m. or having only a set amount of screen time. If they break the rules, they suffer the consequences, like no smartphone for a few days. If it gets lost or broken, having them work to help pay for a replacement is a real-world lesson in money. That said, accidents do happen, so don’t be too tough mom.

Unlimited Text (or No Text at All!)

Not all kids can handle being able to text. Recently, friends of my daughter asked for my number. I had over 300 text messages the next day – mostly hellos and emojis. You might want to consider an unlimited texting plan. Or no texting plan at all, especially with all the free chatting apps available.

Lock It Down

Parental controls are your friend. They still get the phone, you still get to limit their access to unsavory sites and manage who can contact them. And you can set up permissions so you have to approve apps and games before they’re downloaded. Kid win, mom win.

Ultimately, getting a smartphone for your kid is your choice. You – not your kids, or their friends, or their friends’ parents – know what’s best for your family. You’re still a smart mom, whether you give them that smartphone right now or not!

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