Smart enough for a Smartphone?

Hi cyber family!

I had a whale of a time last week since it was my son’s birthday. This summer has so many good releases lined up and we decided to check out the latest movie at the nearest multiplex. Following that, we had plans to go out for a lavish dinner to spend quality time together with the extended family.

That said, I did encounter one annoying thing at the multiplex. In between the popcorn munching and absorbing the visual effects, quite a few phones rang which became irritating after sometime. Interestingly, most of the phones belonged to pre-teens and this brings us to the topic for discussion for today.

When is the right time for kids to have a smartphone of their own?

Not very long ago, owning a smartphone was an adult thing. Tweens and teens, though definitely more adept at operating them, had to be content with the limited time they were allowed on their parent’s devices. But we now live in an age where technology changes or becomes obsolete almost overnight, and with this, the age limit for getting accustomed to a plethora of connected devices too has reduced considerably.

Truth be told, today the smartphone has almost become an extension of our hand and even more so for teens and pre-teens between the age of 10-16. Every day, we see an increasing number of teens and pre-teens (sometimes even younger!) working hard to convince their parents to buy them their very own smartphone.

The reasons offered being: that a smartphone will help them to keep in touch with their concerned parents at all time or the latest smartphone is a great incentive for securing good grades in school.

Bottom line: Our kids expect to lay their hands on a smartphone soon enough! And why not?

After all, we live in the era of smartphones with shrinking attention spans and customers expect everything to happen at the click of a button. We can now easily expect kids to grow up in such an ecosystem where smart devices will become the center of their world. Rest assured, curiosity can get the best of them and they will explore the entire spectrum of things that can be done with the new gadget. It is therefore, up to us to teach best practices which will help them use technology for the better.

So how do we decide what’s the right time to get our kids a smartphone?

While the answer to the above question is subjective, I believe that like any gadget, it’s a matter of need. I believe in Steve Job’s vision on technology and how it spurs innovation and presents a platform for creativity. That said, emotional maturity and showcasing an evolving sense of responsibility by the young one is crucial at a juncture when you decide to get them a smartphone.

There are plenty of tips to be kept in mind when getting your young one a smartphone. Why not start with the following?

  • Test run: Ask your kids to demonstrate responsibility with a second hand phone/ spare phone for some time before demanding a new device
  • Usage – At first, the tech world and its immense possibilities can be overwhelming. The long hours spent on devices may not be something a parent wants to see regularly. Set up expectations that they will need to showcase a balance, so as to moderate the technology/data consumption
  • Connectivity – Educate kids about the need to be vigilant while connecting with the digital world. Public Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even an unknown USB can be unsafe as there are cyber criminals waiting to trap unsuspecting individuals. Ensure clarity on steps to be followed like: having a reputed antivirus, updating it regularly, enabling a firewall etc.
  • Privacy – Make kids aware of all the private information that could be stored on their phones. This ranges from private texts with their parents, family photos or passwords and enforce that NONE of this data is meant to be shared or made public. Additionally, speak with them so that they respect the privacy of others too. Which means keeping smartphones on silent mode when in a multiplex or in public spaces!
  • Responsibility – Let’s face it, smartphones can be costly. Kids have to be informed so that they understand its value and not take the devices for granted. Simple things and examples of how to protect the phone against water, keeping it covered, taking care while commuting should be highlighted
  • Practice what you preach – As a parent ensure that you set up a good example for your kids because they will follow in your footsteps. Set strict house rules for yourself so that kids can emulate good habits too!
  • Most importantly, stay vigilant – Pay attention to the digital safety of you and your family’s online presence. Vigilance pays because initially the child might not be aware that any of their actions may be risky. Ensure you are using a comprehensive security solution to safeguard and monitor your children’s activities.

Let technology inspire confidence and help you all reach a new high.

Stay connected, the safe and secure way.

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