Let’s Hear it for Mr. Bell!

One this day, March 7th, in 1876, Mr. Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for United States Patent No. 174,465. When he shouted that famous line, “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you,” the argument of whether kids should have access to smartphones probably didn’t cross his mind.

Today, parents across the country hear “Why does everyone have an iPhone and why can’t I have one?”

To smartphone or not, that is the real question. Should kids have smartphones?

In our household, our children had access to smartphones at young ages. My husband and I are both tech junkies and love the latest and greatest technologies. We always have. From the very first Apple iPod, Palm Pilots, Microsoft Zune to Blackberries, we had them all. When our boys were in elementary school, I worked for a wireless carrier and had access to unbelievable mobile plans and devices. So, at the young ages of 8 and 10, our boys got their first smartphones. Providing our kids with smartphones at these young ages has worked for us on the most part but we’ve also had our struggles. We’ve battled with the amount of time spent on their phones, the distractions from their notifications and just what is up with this obsession with Snapchat streaks?

How many selfies, half selfies, looking at the ceiling selfies can anyone stand to take? This New York Times cartoon says it all…

Smartphone technology isn’t going anywhere and we can’t just ignore it when it comes to our kids. Especially when your pre-teen and teen are constantly begging you for a phone. According to the Influence Center’s report called Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives, the average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10.3 years. 39% of kids get a social media account at 11.4 years and 11% got a social media account when they were younger than 10. I thought we were on the cutting edge so I was surprised to see 10 years old as the average age for first smartphone ownership.

Regardless of where you stand on the “to smartphone or not” decision, these are some good tips to consider.

Pros of teen/pre-teen smartphone ownership

Powerful reward
Access to smartphones is a powerful reward in our family. Our boys have the ability to earn the “rights” to their phones each week by owning up to their responsibilities at home, at school and in the community. Every week, our boys cash out some of their Stridepost points to redeem for phone usage. This is a great motivator!

Stay in touch
Not only will your kids be able to stay in close touch with their social network, they will always be a text, chat or phone call away from you as well. As kids get older and more independent, they will spend less time with you and at home. Smartphones keep you connected and there are apps available to track the whereabouts of your family if you’d like.

For Developing Responsibility.
I use my smartphones to help me with my daily life. It’s a value tool for me to stay healthy (Weight loss app and fitness app), stay connected with friends and family (Facebook, What’s App) and be productive and organized (Google Calendar, Trello, Slack). I can’t think of one reason why our kids can’t begin to use their smartphones to organize and manage their own days.

Cons of teen/pre-teen smartphone ownership

Expensive.
Wireless service and phones are expensive and an investment. For a family of four with phones and data, the monthly bill can be upwards of $200.

Cost of Phone replacements.
Teens and pre-teens break phones and crack screens. They just do. Most carriers offer insurance plans but again, they are expensive.

Addiction.
Fifty percent of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices, according to the poll, which was conducted for Common Sense Media. Whether it is an addiction or not, two-thirds of parents — 66% — feel their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices, and 52% of teens agree, according to the poll.

You are Still the Parent

Make the rules. Remember that you pay the bill.
As a parent, you have the right to know how a smartphone is being used by your kids. If you find something suspicious, find out what’s going on. In our house, we do random phone audits with our kids. However there are apps that allow you to monitor, track and block your kids’ phone usage if needed.

Set up clear boundaries and expectations.
It should not be too much to ask that your kids put the phone away at the dinner table, while doing homework or trying to have a conversation with them. Make sure that you set the expectation that phones are a privilege and not a right.

After reading this, what do you think, should kids have smartphones?

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Sandy Aldrich

Co-founder & COO at Stridepost
I get energized by positive people. I believe that every turning point in life is leading you to your destiny regardless if it's joyful or painful. I'm a wife of 20+ years and a mom to three kids. I've been a corporate "lean in" type, a non-profit consultant, stay-at-home mom and currently the chief mom of a start up.

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