“But Mom, everybody else has one!”
And of course, the classic parental response to this is, “If everyone else was jumping off the Empire State Building, does that mean you have to?”
But your child needs more than a snappy retort to the question of mobile phones because in this case, the argument has some merit. Kids today run their social lives through their phones, and if they don’t have one, they literally may not have any friends.
On the other hand, they can also bully or be bullied through their phones, buy drugs, and become victims of sexting, among other hazards. And let’s not forget that studies have shown that too much time on social media can affect kids’ mental health.
Parents are caught between a rock and a hard place, wanting to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.
So when is it time to give in to the pleading? Here are a few guidelines.1. Take it in stages
Most experts agree that 12 to 14 is the appropriate age bracket for kids to get a smartphone. But if your child needs one sooner—to coordinate pickups for after-school activities, for example—starter phones are available that don’t come with full access to social media and the Internet.
2. Gauge their maturity
Only you know whether your child is responsible enough to handle a device that has the potential for harm. How are their grades? Do they take care of their possessions? Are they helpful around the house? Do they interact well with their family, classmates, and friends?
3. Don’t call it “their” phone
If you make it clear that this is your phone that you’re letting them borrow, it’ll be easier to take back if they show they’re not responsible enough to have one.
4. Provide information
Have a conversation with your child about the dangers they might encounter on their phones, from trusting strangers to bullying, to sharing inappropriate (i.e., sexual) content. Let them know they can come to you at any time if anything they see makes them uncomfortable.
5. Set limits
Finally, before you give in, lay out the ground rules: how much time they can spend on the phone, what you’ll be doing to monitor their use, and the consequences if they break these rules. Then draw up a contract and have both parties sign it.