Four Ways to Tell Your Teen Is Ready for Their First Smartphone

It can be tricky to decide when a teen is ready for their first smartphone. While teens will likely tell parents they need a smartphone as early as 13, parents often opt to wait until their child has reached a certain level of maturity and is responsible enough to care for an expensive device. If you’re unsure whether your teen is truly ready for his or her first smartphone, there are four key criteria that you can look for that can indicate they are ready for the responsibility and privilege of phone ownership.

1. Ability to Care for Expensive Devices

One of the first concerns that pops into any parent’s mind when they are considering buying the first smartphone for their teen is whether their child will damage or break their device. While it’s not easy to avoid all the many ways a device can be damaged, parents can consider how their teens handle other gadgets. Are they careful with the family’s computer, tablet or television? If they’ve used your smartphone before, did they handle it with care? If you can answer yes to both of these questions, then it’s likely your child is careful enough to handle their own smartphone responsibly.

2. Respect for Rules

Teens may bring up the fact that they can keep in touch with parents and manage homework assignments with a smartphone. The ability to chat with friends, play video games and access social networks are all likely big draws for them, too. Though none of these activities are inherently bad, kids might get side-tracked by any number of new, distracting things to do on their smartphone, possibly neglecting chores and homework in the process. However, a teen that respects rules will be able to follow their parents’ time management guidelines. If your teen often completes their homework and chores before being told to do so, then they are likely ready to use a smartphone.

3. Knowledge of Internet Safety

Internet safety, especially among teens, is incredibly important. Before parents even entertain the idea of purchasing a smartphone for their teen, it is vital that they have a frank conversation with their children about posting personal things online, exercising caution when using social apps like Snapchat, and recognizing and reporting any acts of harassment. Cyberbullying is a problem that is on the rise among teens, with action group Do Something reporting that 70 percent of teens see cyberbullying online regularly. Your teen should able to have a serious conversation with you about these risks before equipping them with a device.

4. Understanding the Value of a Dollar

The more a teen understands the value of money, the more likely they’ll be to take good care of a device. One great way to hammer this point home is to have your teen pick out a smartphone, calculate the cost and allow them to do additional chores to pay for part or all of the device. If the teen is impatient, parents can also offer lower-cost used phones (like Gazelle Certified) as an option. After working hard for their new device, teens will likely appreciate and protect it more, since they put their own hard work into it.

Though teens will likely want to push you into buying them their first smartphone immediately, its important to take a step back and consider whether he or she is really ready for the responsibility that comes with smartphone ownership before swiping the credit card.

What advice would you offer parents thinking about purchasing a smartphone for their teens?

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