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Recently my 7-year-old daughter asked me to replace her old phone with smart-phone(the one with touch screen etc.). One of the reason was that some kids in her class have such a phone.

My daughter has had an old phone since she was 4 (the old phone with large buttons, battery that last 20 days etc...). The phone is used for communication. Daughter attending different sport clubs like gymnastics, swimming, skating, etc. For example she was in sky camp for a week without parents and summer camp with another school. She sometimes go to and from school alone. Every summer kids stays with grand parents for 2 months and they often stay with a nanny so a mobile phone is a must have.

In our family we don't have TV. We prefer playing table games or we are doing sports. So we simply don't have a time for TV\playing games on tablet etc. Of course kids sometimes watches cartoons.

I would say that my daughter deserve to have smart-phone. What I'm afraid of are:

  • She will play with a phone for the whole day as other kids do. She might lose interest in other things that she is doing now. And especially interest to parents
  • I don't want to buy smart-phone just because someone has it. There always will be someone who has more expensive car, a bigger house etc, or in general, nicer things.

So the question is what maturity indicators should I look for to see that she is ready for a smartphone and if we do purchase it, what actions should I take to prevent my fears from happening?

  • Hi nzambi- Stack Exchange doesn't lend itself well to opinion based questions, which is why we have a specific close reason for these. You will have people saying yes, and others saying no. If you can write a question which meets guidance from tour and How to Ask then we'll welcome it. – Rory Alsop Nov 20 '17 at 15:11
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Nov 21 '17 at 23:41
  • That's a useful update to the question - thanks buzz. @Enzo - you may need to revisit your answer based on the edits here. – Rory Alsop Nov 22 '17 at 7:53
  • What are the differences between this question, and When should kids get cellphone? – Acire Nov 22 '17 at 11:50
  • @Erica, In this case kid already own cellphone for 2-3 years. The question is when kids are ready to replace cellphone with smart phone. – nzambi Nov 23 '17 at 9:32
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As soon as you think they can handle it without damaging it too much. Having at-will internet access is a blessing, not a burden.

First of all, smartphones aren't toys. First and foremost, they are like computers - powerful tools that can be used for a lot of things, including playing games, but that's far, far away from the only utility they have.

Let's be honest here - if you take proper care and inspect your kid smartphone semi-regularly, block his or her access to some potentially dangerous apps like Snapchat, and teach your kid how to use a smartphone for smart tasks, he or she will only benefit from it:

  • She will be able to find her way home with a good use of any Maps app if she ever get lost.
  • She will be able to check twitter, news sites and other media for important warnings or problems with your local infrastructure
  • She will be able to take pictures of what she likes
  • She will be able to fact-check things that her colleagues say that may be potentially disastrous. A very significant share of teen pregnancies happen because of poor information. If your kid has enough brains to check online what all of those "if you put lemon juice in yourself you can't get pregnant" myths, you have a whole set of problems vanish.
  • You'll be able to track her whereabouts more easily with the proper set-up, so if something ends up happening to her you'll be able to take action more swiftly and with more precision.

And, let's be fair - kids are kids. If they want to play, not having a smartphone won't stop them. When we were young, even a small sheet of paper was already more than enough to send us to Imagination Land.

  • I never looked at it like this... thanks for a new perspective! Strangely, when trains fail, or sirens sound, or I don't know how to best get somewhere, yes, my first check is my smartphone.. still I never considered how this is really good to learn for kids, too!!! Perhaps because it's knowledge that just crept up to me. – Layna Dec 10 '17 at 19:09
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Maybe I am old-fashioned parent, but my idea is "as late as possible".

First of all, Internet access at will can easily become a continuous distraction from real life and from studying. Colorful and playful contents can be seen as more fascinating than playing outdoor with friends and from concentrating on the home works.

Second, it will require you some time (a lot in my experience) to check the Internet is being used in a way that's proper for a 7 yo girl. Are you ready? Despite what some comments say, you cannot do "automatic parental control" in Android (I'm not sure about OSX) because you can filter apps out, but cannot filter all contents accessed with browsers and messaging apps.

Third, there's this false myth where "my kid needs to be like the other ones" and "she needs not to feel inferior to anyone else". It's all in the home education, not in the objects. Spend more time with her trying to show the value of things, of actions, of manners.

A lot of adults are getting in troubles because of the distraction they face from being always on line with tablets and smartphones. Do you think a 7 yo kid can manage her time and attention? Mine cannot.

So, yes, delay that thing. The danger is that she will become like a lot of other teenagers: distracted and alienated.

Try searching for "smartphones are distracting the kids".

P.S. I haven't even mentioned the danger of letting your girl to communicate with the wrong people. It's just a tiny step.

  • I used to say "Why would a kid need a cellphone?" Then I was a parent and it was less expensive to get the kids a cellphone than a landline for the house. And my kids friends didn't have landline either, so if I wanted them to be able to call me at all, they needed a cell phone. Later, I was asking "why would a kid need a smartphone?", and then suddenly it was less expensive to get the reconditioned smartphone than the flip style phone. Shortly thereafter, I discovered that school teachers depended on students' smart phones to bypass school internet filters to show videos in class. – pojo-guy Nov 20 '17 at 16:03
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    The teacher bypassing the school policies doesn't sound a good practice. – EnzoR Nov 20 '17 at 20:20
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    It's so widespread that administrators are wondering why they pay for the Internet filters. They filter out the stuff meant for schools while allowing all the "contraband" through. As one of the goto guys for tech issues, I've had those discussions more than once. – pojo-guy Nov 21 '17 at 0:17
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Acire Nov 27 '17 at 19:36
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If the present one works, keep it. They don't NEED the features of a smart phone. My friends with kids generally don't think a kid needs a phone until junior high (about age 12)

That said, any kid's phone should have GPS in it, and some system for tracking the phone. This just makes it so much easier to fetch them if the school bus breaks down, if they get lost, etc. At a young age, the kid doesn't need to be aware of it. As they mature you must tell them why, and admit to when you poll the system to find out where they are. Explain to them that they get a much looser rein if you can find out where they are.

As to distractions at home, they are easy to overcome.

Rules:

  • The phone gets parked from the time you get home until the latter of homework done, and family time done. If she wants to exchange texts before bed, no problem.

  • All phones get parked in one spot on their chargers. Each one has a distinctive ring. Maybe have a cake cover that goes over them if they get too noisy and distracting.

  • Phones and computers are to be used in public parts of the house. Family room, dining room, kitchen. This way you can overhear/oversee some of the usage. Set the example for this by using your own phones this way.

When they get older, be reasonable about granting exceptions. E.g. "Susan is going to call later to review History" If they start actually using the phone as not a phone e.g. lists, homework, calendar, etc then allow this.

Give them some space. As kids most of our friends lived nearby. We could talk to them without our parents overhearing. So stay off their facebook page unless invited.

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Being a convenience rather than a necessity, phones are a good way to teach the value of money. My rule for phones with my kids was:

You can have a phone when you can pay for the plan.

I would buy them a cheap phone, and they would pay for the minutes. BTW, prepaid phone plans work great for this. If they don't buy minutes, the phone stops working. If they wanted a more expensive phone, then they had to pay for it themselves. I did allow them to forgo some of their allowance to pay for the minutes. This is a great way to introduce your children to budgeting, and living within their means. I have observed that people who live within their means always have enough, no matter what their income is. And people who live beyond their means can never make enough. And once you choose a free-spending lifestyle, it is very difficult to reign it in.

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    I don't see many ways how kids can earn money. They can earn money from parents but this is not earning. – nzambi Feb 1 '18 at 14:35
  • It's not? They can't do chores to earn money? Make sure money changes hands. My kids had a paper route where they earned money. Kids can cut grass and rake leaves and shovel snow. Yes, first graders won't be cutting grass, but they can do simple chores around the house. If they have regular chores, maybe they could do something extra to earn money. And their lack of earning potential kind of forces them to be thrifty. It worked for my family. – jmarkmurphy Feb 1 '18 at 14:43
  • If the parents claim that the chores the child already does pay for room and board, and some other kid already has that neighborhood's paper route, what sort of "something extra" is worth $36/yr (source: T-Mobile.com) for the cheapest prepaid plan? – Damian Yerrick Feb 8 '18 at 2:51
  • You really can't find something worth < $1 a week? Help bring the groceries in from the car. Vacuum an extra room. Dust a room. Weed the garden. Mix it up, be creative. – jmarkmurphy Feb 8 '18 at 3:03

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