This is a question that has crossed my mind many a time and I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer to it. I guess it is an unclear territory – probably as blurred as your phone screen, after your toddler’s pudgy fingers have smeared mashed potatoes all over it! Answering the questions below could help you decide when you could take the plunge with your little one.
1. Why is it required?
Carefully consider why the smartphone is required. If it is to watch videos and use kiddy apps, then a tablet would make more sense. The bigger screen will only be a bonus for your kid. However, leading psychologists say that children under 5 should not have more than an hour of screen time. So owning a tablet is definitely out of the question. A few hours on the family tablet should suffice. What about a pre-teen who demands a phone to be in touch as he shuttles between his tuitions, tennis practice and music class? If it is to just be in touch, a basic phone should do.
2. Is your child mature enough?
Take into account the maturity level of your child. Is he/she capable of exercising their discretion while using the smartphone? Are they responsible enough for managing their time between their gadget and the rest of their lives? They need to go out, meet friends, play outdoors, finish homework, help around the house and not be glued to their phone screens all day.
3. Will they be responsible enough?
As a college student, I remember working part time jobs to pay off my phone bills. It was my way of taking responsibility. We should encourage our children to know the value of money and not take it for granted. They can pay off their bills by earning a little pocket money, doing chores at home or taking up part time jobs post-school or college. Also, make sure your child will be cautious not to misplace the phone and be careless with it?
4. Do you want your child to have a smartphone?
This is one question that you and your partner need to introspect and answer. Every family is different and you just have to figure what is right for yours. Despite what other parents are doing, stick to what you feel is right for your child. You know your child best and hence, will be the best judge.
Whatever decision you take, be sure to weigh all the pros and cons and discuss your expectations with your child. Set all the limits right at the start so that neither of you is disappointed.