Does your child have a cell phone? The odds are the answer is “Yes.” Statistics show that 56 percent of children 8-12 have a cell phone. It’s difficult to think of a product or technology, designed for adults, that was so quickly and ubiquitously co-opted by kids. Of course, Mom and Dad have to buy the phones and pay the bills, but cell phones have become a necessity in many kids’ lives.
Nielsen surveyed parents last year and found that 45 percent of kids received their own service plan between the ages of 10-12, with 72 percent of those having mobile service that included voice, messaging, and data.
Parents monitor what TV shows and movies their children see, and parental control over mobile usage is just as important. What’s the best way to monitor a device that can be used in so many different ways, is always in a child’s possession, and is out of parents’ sight for most of the time?
Some extensive parental controls are available for Android and iOS operating systems. Google makes the Family Link app for Android devices, with which parents can manage apps, get reports on screen time, and set limits on when the device can be used. For iPhones, Apple just announced new safeguards for devices using iOS 12 features called Screen Time. Parents can view activity reports on their children’s usage and will be able to block usage for specific periods of time.
There are also several choices of free versions of commercial software available that will send regular reports on websites visited, programs used, online searches, and time spent. For more complete monitoring and control, parents can purchase software that will send real-time notifications of violations and abuse, monitor social network activity, and allow the child’s device to be managed remotely.
With the proper restrictions in place, here are some reasons parents should want their children to have and use mobile devices:
- Practicality – It makes sense that parents and kids should be able to contact each other at any time, for any reason.
- Safety – It’s good to know your child is safe after that monsoon storm just blew through town.
- Responsibility – Kids of all ages no longer have an excuse for not being home on time. If they’re going to be late, they can call and tell you why.
- Social Communication – It’s shocking, but older kids sometimes think their parents are boring. When they are stuck having to hang with Mom and Dad, they’ll feel better about it knowing they can text their friends, post on Facebook, watch movies, or play games with actual cool people.
- Location – Thanks to location services, parents will always know where their kids are.
Some phones are better for kids than others. If you want your child to have a real phone, here’s a short list of phones to consider, listed by price, low to high:
- LG K8 – $183.99 – 16 GB storage, 5” screen, Android 6.0.1 OS
- Motorola Moto G6 – $234.99 – 32 GB storage, 5.7” screen, Android 8.0 OS
- Microsoft Lumia 550 – $289 – 8 GB storage, 4.7” screen, Windows 10 OS
- iPhone SE – $299.99 – 32 GB storage, 4” screen, iOS 11
If your child doesn’t need a phone, a tablet will provide all the same non-phone functions on a bigger and easier-to-use screen. Here’s a list of recommendations for the best tablets for kids, which we’ve listed by price, low to high:
- Amazon Fire 7 – $49.99 – 8 GB storage, 7” screen, Amazon Fire OS
- Amazon Fire HD 8 – $79.99 – 16 GB storage, 8” screen, Amazon Fire OS
- Fuhu Nabi Elev-8 – $79.99 – 32 GB storage, 8” screen, Android 5.0 OS
- Asus ZenPad S 8.0 – $228 – 64 GB storage, 8” screen, Android 6.0 OS
- Verizon Gizmo Tab – $249.99 – 16 GB storage, 8” screen, Android 6.0 OS
- Asus ZenPad 3S 10 – $297.99 – 64 GB storage, 9.7” screen, Android 7.0 OS
- Apple iPad – $312 – 32 GB storage, 9.7” screen, Apple iOS 11
While the capabilities of the above tablets vary, with such a broad price range, there’s something for every budget.
If you have children too young for a phone or tablet, but you’d still like some of the benefits of instant communication, look into the Relay or the LG GizmoPal 2.
Of course, if you think kids should be kids, and not have phones or tablets until they’re a bit older, you’re not alone. There’s support for that idea at Wait Until 8th, which provides plenty of compelling reasons to hold off on buying that mobile device for any child below the 8th grade, including:
- Smartphones are changing childhood – Kids are spending 3-7 hours per day in front of a screen.
- Smartphones are addictive – Phones produce the same brain response as alcohol, drugs, and gambling.
- Smartphones affect academics – With so many distractions, kids don’t concentrate on schoolwork.
- Smartphones impair sleep – Besides the light from the screens, kids are waking up in the middle of the night to check their texts.
- Smartphones affect relationships – Whether it’s a relationship with parents or friends, face-to-face relationships are being replace by online friendships.
- Many tech execs ban smartphones for their children – According to The New York Times, many technology executives wait until their child is 14 before giving them a phone and wait until 16 before giving them their own plan.
If, like most parents, you’re under pressure from your children to buy them a mobile device, and you ‘d like to explore even more options, there are many, many, websites offering opinions on the best phones for kids, including PC magazine, Best Products, or TechRadar. For lists of the best tablets, check out Laptop magazine, CNET, or Family Living Today.
With so much to choose from, finding the right device and being able to monitor your child’s activities is easy and can be a good thing for parents and kids.
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