We know there are many pitfalls to kids owning smartphones. However, for most parents, giving their kid a phone is a practical choice. Just because a kid has a smartphone doesn’t mean they will cyberbully, sext, or worse (but they can be on the receiving end of of risks like these). Many kids are responsible and use their phone to make their lives (and those of their parents) easier.
Some of the reasons why kids might want or need smartphones include:
Connection: Busy family life often means family members are going in different directions all day long. When a kid has his own phone he can easily dial up a parent or caregiver for a ride home or to ask a quick question.
Emergency Lifeline: God forbid a kid is ever in a life-threatening situation, but if they are, having a phone on hand is immensely useful. News reports from the recent school tragedy in Florida showed how students inside the school used their phones to get in touch with their loved ones during an extremely scary and urgent situation.
Homework: When homework calls for an internet search it can be helpful to have a phone with browser capabilities to research topics. Also, kids can use their phones to collaborate on homework and club projects when they can’t be in the same room.
Connectivity: If a family member lives far away an app like WhatsApp can be hugely useful for staying in touch. This kind of connectivity with family members living afar was much more difficult before the age of internet and smartphones and can be a huge boon for family life.
Build Trust: Kids need to build trust with their parents over time. Owning a smartphone can be a great way for a kid to demonstrate their responsibility by caring for an expensive piece of equipment and using it appropriately.
Financial Responsibility: Smartphone ownership can be expensive, which can be an opportunity to teach children financial responsibility. Each month review the bill with them so they become familiar with the cost. If kids have an income or allowance they can be responsible for a portion of the bill, or learn how to save for apps or music they want to buy themselves.
Lifelong Friendships: In this day and age it is common for families to move all over the world for careers. For kids, it can be devastating to see their friends move away. However, with a smartphone they can stay in touch and video chat. This can be a wonderful way for friendships to be maintained over the long term.
Handicap: If a kid is handicapped or temporarily incapacitated a phone can help them stay in touch with their community, including schools, sport teams, and clubs. This kind of connectivity is invaluable for combatting feelings of isolation or similar. It can also be the key to keeping up with schoolwork and community responsibilities.
Responsibility and oversight are still key components of smartphone ownership by any child. We encourage parents to monitor social media channels and consider signing a contract with their kids to get off on the right foot. At Latch Mobile we spend a lot of time designing our product to provide the maximum effectiveness so you can take the worry out of giving your kids smartphones, and we are always here to help.