By Cara Fields, Vice President and General Manager of AT&T Southeast States
This time of year, children are making their list so Santa can check it twice. And chances are, there’s some sort of device on the list. Whether it be the latest smartphone, smartwatch or tablet – technology has become such an integral part of our lives, and children are asking for these devices younger and younger.
Parents seem to be listening. Approximately 70% of people say they plan to purchase a tech-related gift for their child this holiday season, according to a recent survey by Recon Analytics.
However, for many parents, the decision of when to give a child their first connected device is not about if they are naughty or nice, but rather are they ready for such a responsibility? Are they mature enough to take care of it, to follow the rules and manage impulses? Also, things far scarier than the Grinch can be lurking on the other side of a smartphone or tablet.
Unfortunately, kids can and do use cellphones inappropriately. An AT&T commissioned survey found 68% of teens say they see content online their parents would consider inappropriate. And 79% say they have experienced inappropriate online behaviors including hurtful comments, unwelcome messages and disturbing or fake news stories.
On the other hand, if a child spends a lot of time away from home with friends or doing extracurricular activities, getting a device for a child may provide peace of mind to a parent. A quick text to check in now and then, and things like AT&T’s Secure Family App that can pinpoint a child’s location at any time, can mean the parent will appreciate the device as much as the kid.
Which is probably why, more than half of children in the U.S. will have a cell phone by the time they’re 11 and 69% have one at age 12. However, experts agree that this decision is not just about age. It’s about your child’s developmental maturity and your family’s values. It’s also about the steps you can take to help your child develop a healthy relationship with technology, starting with the responsible use of their first device.
Each child and family is different. That’s why AT&T teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to develop the PhoneReady Quiz. It’s aimed at helping parents make the decision that is right for their child and family by walking them through 10 evidence-based questions developed by pediatricians.
The tool also shares information on how parents can help prepare their child for this responsibility, surfing the web, texting responsibly and limiting screentime. The quiz is an easy way to determine where your child stands.
If you don’t feel ready to let your child have a phone yet, that’s OK. The quiz offers useful tips and resources to help you prepare for when the time is right. Take the quiz again when you feel you and your child may be ready.
Unfortunately, Rudolph can’t guide you on this one. It’s a personal decision for each family, but hopefully with some tools and resources to help, the choice will be a little easier for your family to make.