One of the advantages of homeschooling is getting to choose exactly which information your child is exposed to and how they learn.
However, kids are kids, and at some point, it is inevitable that they will start asking you for a mobile phone or a smartphone.
It can be hard to know when the time is right.
There are some advantages to giving your child a phone.
They’re A Way To Communicate In Emergencies
The top of every parent’s list for reasons to gift your child with a phone is the ability for them to contact you in the case of an emergency.
For homeschooled kids, this need might be less pressing, as they spend most of their time at home, with you, and don’t have to travel home from school without you.
However, if they do go out without you or another adult, such as going out to play with friends or traveling home alone from something like a swimming lesson or sports game, then you might want to consider giving them a phone.
If the phone is to be emergency only, you don’t need to get them an expensive smartphone.
Choose a simpler phone that can only make calls and send texts.
They’re A Way To Reach Them When You Need To
As your children get older and more independent, it can be nice to know that they are only a phone call away.
This can be useful for all kinds of reasons, from letting them know you’re stuck in traffic so will be late to pick them up to reminding them of their curfew or sending a text to ask what they want for dinner.
Being able to call or text is useful, especially for teenagers who may be out and about quite a bit.
They Give Access To Educational Information For Homeschooling
Smartphones can actually be a very useful tool for learning.
Many homeschooling programs have apps, where you can assign tasks, access assignments and find educational resources.
A phone can be grabbed quickly for research purposes, wherever you happen to be, allowing you to take class time away from the computer.
If you decide to add a phone to the classroom, you can an unlimited data SIM plan to save the shock of a large bill.
If you’re concerned about your child accessing something other than the educational apps, you can use apps to add parental controls to block certain apps and websites and monitor the amount of time the phone is used for.
There are some drawbacks too to giving your child a phone.
They Will Increase Your Monthly Expenses
If you’re on a tight budget, the extra cost of another phone in the house could be a problem.
First, you have to buy the phone itself, then you have the cost of buying minutes, a monthly contract or adding them to your family plan.
There are other possible fees, such as extra texts, ringtones, data use, downloadable content and roaming charges, which can soon start yo add up.
There are cheap plans out there if you shop around, and there are lots of good value family mobile plans if you know where to look.
They May Pose Health Risks If Not Used Wisely
It might seem overdramatic, but there several health risks that are associated with cell phone usage that you should take into account when considering giving your child a smartphone.
Kids and adults can easily become addicted to their phones.
Prolonged use can also cause eye strain and other conditions like text neck (pain caused by looking down at a phone too much), digital thumb (strain on the tendons caused by repetitive swiping and scrolling) and cellphone elbow (caused by overextension and repetitive use).
Using a phone for too long can cause all kinds of posture problems, tendinitis, and overuse injuries.
Digital thumb is the most common problem and can cause tenderness, pain, tingling and a loss of strength or sensation.
The treatment start with anti-inflammatories, heat or cold packs, and braces.
Eventually, it can require physical therapy, steroid injections or even surgery to correct.
Social Media Access Can Lead To Cyberbullying And Other Threats
Social media is the biggest reason that many parents have concerns about mobile phones.
It used to be that phones could be only be used for calls and texts, but now they all have cameras and most can connect to the internet, where there are a lot of things you probably don’t want them to see.
Social media can be a great tool, but it can also put your children at risk of online bullying, grooming by sexual predators, and being exposed to content that may upset them.
One of the apps that are most worried about is Snapchat, which allows users to send photos that disappear after a few seconds.
Many parents worry about inappropriate images being sent to or by their child, who may not yet understand the full consequences of their actions.
To combat this, you can install parental controls that allow you to block certain apps from being downloaded.
Be aware though, that new apps are being developed all the time, and children tend to know about them long before their parents do.
Honest discussions about mobile use and staying safe on social media is a more effective way to keep them safe.
Give your child the tools to look after themselves online and make sure they understand the darker side of the internet.
What is the best age to buy a smartphone for your child?
There is no set age that is right for all children to have their first smartphone.
The right time to give them a phone will vary from child to child.
Every family is different, with different needs, beliefs, and reasons behind the cellphone question.
While there is no set age for buying their first phone, you can decide if the time is right by asking yourself a few questions.
- Is your child responsible enough to understand the rules and guidelines you set for them and their phone, and follow those rules?
- Is your child out of the home a lot and is in need of a method of getting in touch with you?
- Have they shown an interest in having their own phone?
- Do you trust them to be responsible with an expensive item, and not lose or break the phone?
- Are you willing and able to pay for the phone, if they are too young to pay for it themselves?
Ask yourself these questions, and discuss the answers with your child’s other parent.
It can be a good idea to discuss these questions with the child as well, so they understand that having a phone is a privilege that they must earn by showing they can be responsible, mature and sensible.
If they see that you are taking the request seriously, they may work harder to show you that they are ready and can be trusted.
For families where children are often out at extra-curricular activities may feel most comfortable just giving the child a very basic phone model which can only call and text.
Other families feel comfortable going straight to a smartphone, but with strict guidelines on proper, responsible use.
If you do decide the time is right, don’t just hand over the phone and forget about it.
Try and have regular discussions about how they use their phone to make sure they are still playing by your rules and are using the phone as something to enhance their learning and safety and not risk it.
If your child understands that their phone use is a conditional thing, they will keep following your rules.
If you realize they are using the phone in a way you have forbidden, whether they have downloaded apps you view as unsafe or are using it as a distraction from or a way to cheat on their schoolwork, be prepared to take the phone away again, or change up the rules.
A good way to teach good phone habits is to model good phone behavior yourself.
If you’re telling your child they can use their phone between certain hours, but they see you glued to yours all the time, you will undermine the point you’re trying to make.
Set rules about phone use that will benefit everyone, such as no phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom, so they don’t prevent conversation or disturb sleep.
Make sure the whole family follows these rules, including older children and any adults in the house.
Rules like this show your children that phones can be enjoyed responsibly and that everyone needs to be sensible about how often they use it.
When you do decide the time is right, take some time t to consider what time of phone will work best for them and how you will manage their usage after they get it to keep them safe and undistracted.