You have seen them everywhere: toddlers with their mom’s or dad’s smartphone staring intently at the screen. Even though the young tots are not old enough to read text messages or emails, they are transfixed with the shiny and colorful device.
Now your child is begging for a smartphone, but you have reservations. Granted, your son or daughter is well past the toddler years, but you are concerned that having a cellphone will be a problem. Fortunately, though, it is possible to turn a smartphone into an educational tool for your kiddos. To better understand the pros and cons of giving your child a smartphone, consider the following points:
Con: Cyber Safety and Bullying
Cyberbullying is a concern when it comes to kids and smartphones. The internet allows people to comment anonymously and post messages that can be hateful and harmful. The last thing you want is for your kid to be the victim of online bullying or to get wrapped up in online taunting of another kid. If you decide to give your child a phone, be firm about rules and time limits. Let them know that you have the right to go through the phone to see what they have been up to. Encourage your child to come to you if he or she is being victimized in any way.
Another reason you may be hesitant to hand your child a smartphone is cost. You are concerned about giving your young child an expensive piece of equipment that can be lost or broken. Plus, you may need to increase your data limit, which can be expensive.
However, there are affordable ways to do it. For example, T-Mobile offers cost-saving family phone plans that are as little as $10 extra a month. You could ask your child to contribute some or all of the cost to help teach them responsibility and make up for the extra charge on your bill. T-Mobile also has great deals on smartphones for families that have an ongoing contract.
Pro: Educational Tool
The iTunes App Store has an enormous number of educational apps that are designed for kids. These include interactive worksheets, learning games, flashcards and online “academies” like ABCMouse. Sit down with your kiddo and go through the learning apps together and see which ones they want to download (Tip: Look for the free ones). Many of these apps and the internet in general can help your child be an independent learner as well. When your child comes to you with a question that you cannot answer, like what causes wind or why the sky is blue, encourage them to look up the answer on Google.
Also look at ways that the smartphone’s features can boost your child’s budding interests. For example, if they are interested in photography, show them how to use the phone’s camera to get great shots of the family dog or the snow-covered trees out front. Or you can help your budding star write, produce and shoot their first video on the phone’s 4K camera.