It was literally the perfect storm. My son had to stay after school for extra activities, and a huge thunderstorm rolled in right at dismissal. He walks to school, and we were not sure if his activities were going to be canceled. We were left trying to figure out if we should go pick him up, leave him, or let him figure it out. If only he had a phone, we could text him.
It would be helpful for my son to have a smartphone, but my wife and I have had to accept something difficult: He’s just not ready for one. When you give your kids a smartphone, you are handing them a powerful tool. It gives them access to the world and a means of communication they haven’t had before. Some kids can handle having their own devices. At some point, we all ask it: “Is my child ready for a phone?” Here are 4 signs your kid isn’t ready for a smartphone.
1. Your kid has an addictive personality.
When we got a Nintendo Switch, it was as if everything else in the world shut off. We quickly learned that for my son, we had to set boundaries and limit his time. You could argue that most kids are addicted to technology today, but if they show signs of tunnel vision with other devices, you can probably assume a smartphone will consume them. If you choose to give them a smartphone, make sure you establish boundaries and limits from day one.
2. Your kid is not responsible with the things you already give her.
A few Christmases ago, we got the kids Amazon Kindles for cheap. Within days, my daughter lost hers, and it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that we found it in the towel cabinet in the kids’ bathroom. If your kids are not responsible with the things they already have, you can assume they will not be responsible with a smartphone. If you choose to give them one, make sure you set ground rules for what happens if the phone is misplaced, misused, or damaged.
3. Your kid realistically doesn’t need one.
My son honestly doesn’t need one. We have other means of communicating with him when he’s at home and we’re not—his iPad. And he doesn’t go anywhere there isn’t an adult we can contact. At school, he checks out a device for his work. The only reason he wants a phone is because his friends have one. We made a rule a long time ago that we will not fall into the “everyone’s doing it” crowd. Instead, we’ll do what’s right for our family. If you choose to give your kids a phone, make sure you establish how, when, and where they can use it.
4. Your kid is not ready for what he’ll be confronted with.
While watching TV with my kids, a movie trailer showed a guy without clothes covering himself with a pillow. Immediately, my daughter flipped out, asking questions about this movie. Handing your kids a smartphone will give them access to content they’ll have questions about—and content you don’t want them to see. While we can’t guard them against everything, we can asses their maturity level, and if they can handle what they’ll be confronted with. If you choose to give your kids a phone, you have to coach your them up on what they should do when they see something inappropriate. Make sure they know they can come to Dad anytime it happens.
Sound off: How would you answer this question: “Is my child ready for a phone?”
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are the benefits of having a phone, and what are the potential downsides?”