October Q&A: Smartphones

Kids and Smartphones   Question:

   Dr Kate, My son is entering 6th grade and insists on having a smart phone. What are your thoughts on this?


Middle school does serve as a rite of passage for many tweens.  It is the age where puberty hits hard and it’s th beginning of independent decision making and new levels of freedom.


Starting your child with a traditional flip phone to determine how well he can manage that the responsibility of having a phone is a good strategy, even if it’s for a short time. You can buy a pay as you go phone so that you don’t have to make a major investment in a phone that he may not use for long.


Things to monitor with a flip phone include: Can he keep track of it, does he answer it when you call, does he use it responsibly, does he keep it charged and how often does he use it. If it appears that he is able to manage a flip phone responsibly, then you could consider a smart phone. You would do this not because a flip phone won’t do the job, but rather because its common place for tweens to have a smart phone that serves many purposes. A smart phone will allow him to text to his friends, which in moderation may be a good way to form new friendships in a new middle school, conduct online homework searches, listen to audible books, read books, take pictures and video and use educational apps. It may be as cost efficient and practical to get him a smart phone as any

other mobile device and it can be used as a phone as well. It’s just the way tweens and teens operate today- smaller screens and with more options.

Here are some things to consider before investing in a smart phone:


1. How has your child handled a flip phone?

2. Did he understand the concept of wireless use versus using data and a data plan?

3. Can he be trusted to use the phone in the manner you decide?

4. Can he be trusted no to use the phone in school for texting or pictures or other inappropriate uses.

5. Can he accept the idea of tech free times and zones and accept he will not have the phone in his room at night?

Parents need to know that technology keeps kids up at night and should be taken away an hour before bedtime. Having a portable phone is the same as having a hand held computer. Because kids will feel that it’s more accessible parents need to proactively set firm limits about usage.

The reason to get your son a phone is not because others have one and is because it’s a practical way to be technologically up to speed for responsible children. Parents need to be prepared to take it away should a tween miss use it and consequences should be agreed upon upfront. A terms of usage smart phone contract is a good idea as part of the initial purchase. There are many examples online if you conduct a search.

Regardless of your child’s age, don’t get him a smart phone until he can responsibly follow the steps outlined above.

See this link for the orignal location of this article: http://www.northshorefamilies.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/October-2015-final-issue-PDF-9-28-15.pdf


Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. Questions can be directed to www.drkateroberts.com www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRoberts or www.pinterest.com/DrKateParenting





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