Smart move

Questions you should be asking before buying your child a smartphone
By Tamlyn Vincent

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How often do you hand your smartphone to your child, so that she can play a game, search for something on the internet or call a friend? With the tech-savvy children of today, probably quite often. But does this mean that she’s ready for her own? Buying your child a smartphone can mean exposing her to certain dangers, while requiring a great deal of responsibility, given the price tag on many of these phones. You may be tired of handing over your phone, but before buying your child her own, ask yourself these questions.
 
Is my child ready?
Having a smartphone is great, but it is also a big responsibility. So before comparing specs on the latest releases, consider whether your child is mature enough. With smartphones comes access to the internet (and everything on it), social media, games, and a variety of apps. Your child will need to be mature enough to decide for herself what to search for online, what to download and when to put the phone away. She’ll also need to be responsible enough not to lose or break the phone, or get it taken away at school.
 
Does my child need a smartphone? Or is it just because everyone else has one?
Sure, it’s great to have the latest gadget or gizmo. But does she really need that smartphone, or is it just something to show off at school? If all she needs to do is phone or check in with you, consider getting a simpler cellphone – it doesn’t have to be smart.
 
Is my child aware of the dangers?
Smartphones give children access to a world of information along with access to social media, chatrooms and more. Speak to your child about cyber-bullying, speaking to strangers online, and about the risk of posting images or comments on any social platform. One way to keep an eye on any activity, is to ensure that you have access to the phone and all passwords on it. You can also install parental control apps, location trackers or similar items to help monitor your child, and ensure her safety.
 
What is the best payment option?
You can go with pre-paid, although a contract may be more feasible for more expensive smartphones. One important question is what will happen when the airtime or data runs out? Establish ground rules about how much data and airtime you’re willing to buy every month – when that runs out, make your child responsible for topping up.
 
What apps will be allowed?
It’s a good idea to establish what apps and games will be allowed on the phone. This will vary from age to age, and depend on your child’s interests. But you should ensure that anything downloaded is age-appropriate. You’ll also want to look out for in-app purchases, which can quickly add up to an unexpected expense.
 
What features do I need to look for?
Of course, your child is going to want a smartphone with some cool features, like a decent camera. But you should also look for a phone with a good battery life and one that is durable.

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