Smartphones for Kids – How to Protect Them and Their Tech
We’ve all heard the phrase “having kids means you can’t have anything nice,” right? Maybe it’s not 100% accurate, but it does mean that the kids can’t have anything nice in some cases. Kids seem to have a propensity to drop things, spill on them, and make a mess. So, what happens when your child is begging for that cool new toy, jeans, or worse – a smartphone? In our technological world, it’s not uncommon to see a 5-year-old playing with a tablet or a pre-teen talking on an iPhone. So, when is the right time to buy smartphones for kids, and how can you ensure it lasts?
Deciding to Purchase Smartphones
The smartphone market is vast and growing. Phones now have apps, games, texting, email, the Internet, and much more. Consequently, kids who have smartphones also have access to these features, as well as the perils that come along with them. According to a survey by AT&T, parents buy smartphones for kids around their 12th birthday. Almost teenagers, they are playing sports, going to friends’ houses, or biking to the movies. At this age, kids aren’t always with mom or dad – and more than likely, they need phones to call mom or dad to come to pick them up! More independence leads to a desire for parents to stay connected, and phones offer a safety net in case anything happens. Many parents pass on older phones when they get upgrades for themselves. Whatever the reason is for getting your child a phone, it’s a big step that invokes long-term costs.
How to Protect Your Children’s Smartphone Usage
Once you decide on purchasing a smartphone for your child, it’s essential to protect the device as well as the child. Luckily, protecting your children can be the easy part.
Buy a Basic Phone
They may not be “hip” or offer access to Facebook, but that’s half the reason people still buy these phones. They allow for calling and texting, and maybe even a game or two like that primitive dot-eating snake. These limited capabilities ensure your kids can’t access the internet, download expensive apps and games or even send picture messages.
Use Parental Controls
Most cell phone carriers offer parental control settings that allow you to block numbers, limit time spent on apps, control Internet access, and block activity after a specific time at night. Smartphones for kids can be controlled using these features to ensure only certain people can contact them. These options help parents manage what their kids are doing on their phones and when they are using them. If you only want your kids to have access to calling or texting certain people, these parental controls allow you to pick and choose that as well, all while maintaining contact with them.
Opt for Specially Designed Smartphones For Kids
Many companies now offer even more basic phones that only allow calls to Mom, Dad, and an emergency number. Usually, these are recommended for very young children who have no need to contact other numbers. My FiLip offers wristwatch phones that allow kids to contact only those three numbers. These phones also include a GPS tracker so parents can keep an eye on their little tykes.
Protective Options for Your Smartphone
Next comes protecting the phone itself – as we said, it can be challenging, but we do have a few suggestions.
Get a Case and Screen Protector
Screen protectors can keep the glass from scratching or shattering if a phone is dropped. By picking out a brand that is known to be durable and allowing your kids to pick the case, it’s more likely to stay on it and do its job. We have a few suggestions for protection on our blog.
Decide on your Protection Plan
Your carrier will offer a protection plan, but these can be pricey and usually don’t cover some of the most frequent accidents. There are third-party insurance providers that allow you to customize a protection plan with varying deductibles. In a recent Yahoo news article, the third option was suggested by Jeremy Kwaterski, owner of CPR. Kwaterski said, “In some cases, it makes sense to skip filing an insurance claim and pay for repairs out of pocket.” Finding a local repair shop you trust can usually pay less than your insurance deductible for the same work. According to Kwaterski, water damage can typically be fixed for $50, and a cracked screen can cost anywhere from $35 to $175, depending on the phone and the extent of the damage. You can learn more about common repair problems and how CPR can help here.
If Stolen, Wipe or Lock the Phone.
Don’t risk someone getting access to your children’s personal information. Have the phone remotely wiped of its memory or locked to keep its contents away from a thief.
As it comes time for you to decide whether or not to get your kid a phone, keep these suggestions in mind. Cell phones offer many solutions for many families, but assessing the potential drawbacks will allow you to make the most informed decision about getting a phone and managing it in the hands of your children. Tell us, what decision did you make and how did your research help or hinder the process?