Dear M.J.,

My 12-year-old complains that he’s the only one of his friends without a smart phone, but I’ve heard horror stories about kids with smartphones these days, even with protective barriers up. Am I being unreasonable?

Sincerely,
Not Ready Yet

Dear “Not Ready Yet,”

You have to go with your gut on this one. If you feel it’s not the right time for your son to get a smartphone, then it’s probably not the right time. I hear many valid reasons why kids want smartphones, but as you know, having unlimited access to the world in the palm of your hand—including violent headlines, graphic accident or disaster scenes, and pornography—can open up a host of issues. Even the grandest of protective barriers will not catch everything, so when it comes down to it—is your child mature enough to deal with the consequences of being exposed to things that are uncomfortable or cannot be unseen? And are you ready for him to experience that?

If you do decide to introduce your child to a smartphone, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Set time limits. Giving your child 24-hour access to the devise could mean they are on it for hours, which can lead to eyestrain, headaches, and sleep deprivation.
  2. Manage their apps. Be aware of what apps your child downloads to their phone.
  3. Utilize parental control options. You can set specific age limits and block pages with content unsuitable for anyone under 17. You can monitor text messages and phone calls and set up controls so the phone cannot receive any during specific hours.
  4. Communicate with your child. Check in regularly and make sure they know to come to you with any issues. Access to social media and smartphones could open up your child to cyber-bullying and inappropriate behaviors from others kids.
  5. Put guidelines in place for what is and is not appropriate to send over text. You don’t want your child to end up in hot water for sexting or sending inappropriate pictures.
  6. Talk to your friends and family. The best way to know if you are ready is to talk to parents who have given their kids smartphones. Ask them how it is going, what the positive and negatives are, and take your time deciding.

Send your questions to direct@dmiagency.com with the subject line “Ask M.J.” All questions will be published anonymously.