With all the excitement of a new smartphone being released every few months, many can’t seem to get the newest one fast enough. You know that times have changed when one of the most vocal and excited group is teenagers — yes, that’s right — teenagers. We are now living in a world where many teenagers feel that they “need” a smartphone.
So now the question for parents becomes, do I get my teenager a smart phone? Arguments can be made for and against the phone in this important decision — and it is important, as you will be setting a precedent for your family. Here are some ways to help parents decide whether or not they should get their teenager a smartphone:
Can your family afford it? It is important to remember that outside of just purchasing the actual smartphone, you will need to add a data plan and cell plan. These can easily run $100 per month, and people are often surprised by their first bill. Most plans also have hefty cancelation fees, so you need to know whether you can make the long-term commitment.
Why does your teen need a smartphone? One of the number one reasons teens will say they need a smartphone is so you, the parent, can always get a hold of them: how thoughtful of them. This is a good reason, but why a smart phone and not a regular phone? Your teen may also tell you their school now allows this type of technology during school time — while this may be true, it may be allowed for specific purposes only. Familiarize yourself with your school's policy.
Smartphones are expensive, slick, cool little computers that offer more than most kids really need. Has your teen earned it? This is one of the most important questions for a parent to consider. Think about setting very specific goals that focus on education and extracurricular activities to help determine if your teenager deserves a smart phone. Achieving these goals and earning a smartphone can actually be a very positive experience for your teenager.
Can you trust your teenager with a smartphone? As parents, we all want to believe our teenagers are honest with us. The reality is, trust is established through actions. A smartphone opens up access to a whole new world with as many bad ways to use technology as good ways. If you have trust issues with your teenager, you need to think long and hard about getting them a smartphone. You don’t want to add in any way to poor decisions your son or daughter might make. With smart phones comes the Internet and access to “Apps”— phone applications that give you instant access to a wide variety of things. If not monitored, access is a cinch to games and websites that promote violence, pornography, and other negative influences. Many of these influences are addictive, and can lead to your teen spending long periods of time alone on their smartphone, disconnected from family and friends.
Your teenager may not be ready for a smartphone right now, and that is ok. All their friends may have one — fine. Don't feel pressure to buy your relationship with your teenager. Have a discussion with your teen, and make a plan with reasonable expectations. At the end of the day, your love and connection will always be your smartest move.
Seth Saunders is an executive business consultant and leadership coach. Seth has been married 20 years to his amazing wife, Amber, and is the proud father of three wonderful sons. He is passionate about helping others succeed.