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Your Teen and Smart Phones: Do they need one, how to stay safe

teens and smartphone use

Parents through the ages have had one consistent thing in common - worrying about the safety and well-being of their kids. The sources that bring about those concerns, though, have varied widely, especially in the last 100 years with technology advancing as fast as it has. Even in the last 10 years, technology has changed so much with the creation and overwhelming success of the first iPhone (and subsequent other smartphones) and smart devices created since. It seems everyone has a smartphone, and even young kids and teens seem to have them in overwhelming numbers. Your teens are asking you to get them their own smartphones, but you probably have several well-founded hesitations. All of the problems and worries you have about the internet, such as predators, cyberbullying, and just plain spending too much time in front of a screen, are exacerbated when it’s all located on a pocket-sized device. There is also the cost of adding additional phones and lines to your own plan. As with most worries concerning your kids, doing your research before making a decision is important. Specifically searching for solutions to common smartphone problems parents have with teens will be the most beneficial.

Staying safe on social media

Social media has become commonplace in our everyday lives, and people are sharing more without much filtering. Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and countless others make it possible to share anything in an instant. While an adult can make their own (arguably) bad decisions and suffer possible consequences, your young teen hasn’t had enough life experience to understand what’s appropriate to share on social media and who is okay to interact with. Teaching your teens the basics of online safety, what a digital footprint is, and the importance of utilizing privacy settings is crucial to keeping them safe on social media from predators and cyber bullying.

Smartphones and driving

Cell phones and driving have always been a dangerous mix, and with the expansive functions of smartphones, the problem has become exponentially worse. People of all ages are paying more attention to their screens than the road, and it is causing a rise in distracted driving related crashes. Your teens who are new drivers are not only at an increased risk for crashes due to inexperience, the use of their smart devices could add to this risk substantially. If your teen is going to get a smartphone, and has or will be getting their driver’s license soon, there are ways that you can help prevent cell phone use and driving. Talking to your teen about the importance of driving without distraction is the first thing you should do. Make sure they are silencing their cell phones and putting them out of reach so the temptation to check or answer their phone isn’t there. You can also download apps that will disable smartphones when they detect movement over 10 mph. As much as you want to trust your teen to make good decisions, a little extra precaution never hurts.

Paying for the smartphone

Outside of safety concerns, monetary worries might be on your mind. Smartphones tend to be fairly expensive, and the monthly charge for a plan can be outrageous in addition to what you already pay for your own cell phone plan. There are several ways you can address the matter of paying for a smartphone. Much like the issue of a car for a teen, each family does it a little differently. If it’s within your budget, you can fully pay for the phone and plan. If you want your teen to earn the privilege while teaching monetary responsibility, you can pay for the phone, but have your teen pay for the plan out of their own earnings (much like parents who buy a car for their teen, but the teen must pay for gas and insurance). Or have the teen cover everything with their own money, and add the line to your plan so you can still monitor their cell phone usage. Most cell phone companies offer great deals for family plans that make adding a line easy and affordable. There are even options with companies like t-mobile to buy a sim card for an existing phone, so you can buy/bring a used phone and limit cell phone use to a prepaid amount of minutes. With so many options, paying for a smartphone and plan is just up to your own philosophy on teen responsibility and your budget. With open and serious conversation, you can address the issue of your teen getting a smartphone just like many other freedoms offered to teens. Trust and a sense of responsibility should be the main focus, and everything else, like appropriate use of their devices, can be taught.

Mila Sanchez's picture
Mila is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Linguistics. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and studying foreign languages.