Every school-going kid seems to have one, but is there really a need for your primary schooler to have a smartphone? These are what every parent should consider.
1. Why does she need one?
There is no magic age when kids should start having mobile phones, says Dr Lim Boon Len, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.
Instead, you should ask why she needs one.
Do you need her to be easily contactable? Do you want her to be able to reach you during an emergency?
If you are satisfied with the answers, and she knows how to use a phone to make a call and can be trusted to keep her belongings safe, then you can consider buying one.
“My two children were only given smartphones when they started secondary school,” Prof Lim Sun Sun, who works at Singapore University of Technology and Design, shares with Young Parents.
(Also read: Mum’s confession: My kids have no iPhone or iPad)
2. Go for a no-frills model
If your child is in lower primary school, it’s better to get her a basic phone, Dr Lim says. With a smartphone, there’s that danger of exposing her to addictive online games and cyber-bullying.
Social media apps and online videos may also be detrimental to her development.
Smartphones are not advisable unless she’s in upper primary school. Important school or social information is sometimes disseminated via apps and social media platforms and, in such cases, you’d want her to have easy access to it.
You don’t have to splash out on the latest expensive or fancy smartphone – give her your old one or buy one of the cheaper, simpler models.
3. Prepaid vs post-paid plan
“A prepaid plan will give you better control over your child’s mobile Internet and phone usage, so you should go with that first,” Dr Lim points out.
“When she’s a little older and more trustworthy, and has shown that she can handle her data usage responsibly, then you can consider signing her up for a post-paid plan.”
4. Set rules to prevent addiction
Once you’ve decided on the rules, discuss them with your child to make sure she understands what she can and cannot do with the phone, when, where and how often she is allowed to use it, and so on, says Dr Lim.
If there are certain apps or functions on the phone you do not want her to use, let her know and tell her why.
Make clear the consequences of breaching these rules, monitor her usage and educate her on the dangers of online games and social media apps.
It’s useful to keep yourself updated on the latest apps, games and social media platforms as well. This will help you identify potential dangers and give you the chance to communicate these to her.
Prof Lim shares her experience: “After 9pm, (my children) are not to use their phones so that they can wind down for the night. I permitted them to experiment with social media but they used my devices to do so. They also have to ‘friend’ me so that I can give them feedback on what they are posting.”
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