• September 15, 2022
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How to Tackle the Dreaded Question Can I Have a Smartphone?

How to Tackle the Dreaded Question Can I Have a Smartphone


Has your child just popped the dreaded question, “Can I have a smartphone?”

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If your child is still in primary school and you’ve chosen not to hand them a smartphone just yet, you’ve joined the ranks of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and top-grossing actress Nicole Kidman.


But many parents opt to give their eleven-year-olds smartphones for safety reasons. The tween years are when kids begin to go out and explore the world; they want to hang out with friends at the mall or take solo bike rides in the park.


So the question is then: Is my child ready for a smartphone?



Signs Your Child is Ready for Smartphone


Signs your child is ready for a smartphone


Your child listens to instructions

This is important because your child must be able to put the smartphone away during class when the teacher says so and at the dinner table when you tell them to. Bonus points if your child follows instructions immediately after they are given— when you say, “Time to shower. Please turn off the TV,” and your child instantly turns the TV off.


Your child understands that there is a time to use the device and a time to put it away

If you currently let your child watch shows or play games on your iPad, do they willingly return it when you ask for it? And if the iPad is on the table when your child is doing their homework, are their eyes constantly darting to it?


Your child understands the importance of in-person interactions

Your child should understand the value of spending time with people in real life. Sure, it’s possible to make friends and find a community online, but physical face-to-face interaction are still what help us develop interpersonal social skills and cherish those near and dear to us.


Your child is responsible for their belongings

If your child rarely loses items and knows where their important items are when asked, they’ve proven to be responsible. Do they remember to feed the pet or water the potted plants daily? When your child can take on “smaller” responsibilities, like keeping their wallet safe and remembering to lock the front gate, they’ll likely be able to take on the “larger” ones, like taking care of their smartphone.


Your child is becoming more independent

As your child grows up and starts spending more time outside with friends, they’ll probably want to stay connected online at home too (more on setting ground rules for smartphone usage below). Another marker of independence is when your child begins to make good decisions on their own— about what they want to do and how they choose to spend their time.


Now that your child is ready for a new smartphone, are you, as a parent, ready to prepare your child for one? (Or skip ahead to our Smartphone Alternatives)



How to Prepare Your Child for a Smartphone


How to prepare your child for their first smartphone (step by step)


1. Arrange a day to talk with your child

Setting a time to talk signals to your child that what you are about to discuss is important. It’s good to set that tone from the start, so that your child understands the value of owning a smartphone.


Pro-tip: If your child understands things better visually, you can draft a “smartphone contract” listing the rules and consequences of owning a smartphone and have your child sign their name on it.


2. Set ground rules

Do discuss with your child about the rules when using the smartphone outside and at home, and explain why you need those rules in place. This helps them to understand, for example, that they’ll have to keep the device away during mealtimes because you want to be fully present when you eat together as a family, or that they’ll have to let you know what apps they want to download because you want to make sure they’re safe to use (some apps charge money or ask for too much personal information).


Pro-tip: Assign a place away from your child’s bedroom where phones are charged/ kept at night. This helps your child avoid the screen and settle down before bedtime.


3. Enable restrictions on the device

Both Android and iPhone have screen time functions that allow you to limit how much time your child can spend on specific apps and what time the apps can be used until (great to incorporate into their bedtime routine). You can also set browsing restrictions to limit adult content and certain apps.


4. Let them know you’re there for them

Tell your child that if they come across an inappropriate or troubling image or message online, they can talk to you about it at any time— no judgement, no scolding. Keep an open channel that conveys trust and love.


But perhaps you’ve gone through this list and your child is not quite ready for a smartphone just yet.



Consider a Smartphone Alternative


Consider a smartphone alternative


There are plenty of options for your kids other than a smartphone, like the traditional cellular phone that doesn’t have internet access (remember those?), a walkie talkie, a smartwatch or even a GPS tracker. Here are some possible options for your child’s needs:


Your child is exploring nearby

Perhaps your child is exploring the neighbourhood or playing with friends at the playground, and you want your child to let you know which playground they’re at or to call them back for dinner. A simple two-way transmitter-receiver radio would do the trick (think Stranger Things walkie talkies). Some GPS trackers will have simple communication functions too.


Your child needs a ride back from school

If you’d like to arrange to pick your child up from school after co-curricular activities, they can easily ring you from the school office telephone (the school receptionist will most likely allow that). Otherwise, you could get them a smartwatch to ping you with or an old-school pager. Believe it or not, pagers are still used by doctors in hospitals today!


Your child is heading out into the big world

If your child is hanging out with friends at the mall or somewhere further, consider an inexpensive basic cell phone without internet access. Your child will be able to call or text you without the worries of getting into social media or gaming. Some senior phones have larger buttons and are suitable for tweens.



So there you have it. Now you can decide how to answer that not-so-dreaded-anymore question and help your child understand what steps they can do to take ownership of their belongings and show that they’re ready for a new smartphone.




Elina Lo






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