Should I get my 12 year old a smartphone?

Welcome to Ask GG (Gadget Girl – Tracey)!

Today’s problem:

Should I get my 12 year old a smartphone?

phone It’s really not about whether or not it’s a particular brand – for most people it’s about keeping their son/daughter safe.  Yes it’s being connected but it’s also knowing that the person would have the ability to call someone in an emergency. 

 The average (US) age for a cellphone is approximately 12 years old.  Over 88% of US teens – 13 to 17 have access to a cellphone.  Whereas 12% of US teens surveyed said that they did not own a cellphone of any type.

 Should it be a basic phone? (just texting and calling without the Internet) or a Smartphone (everything but the kitchen sink)?

 In New Zealand, a communications company gives limited free access (with some data conditions) to plans where people if they have run out of credit could still access Facebook and Twitter.  Now if your son/daughter had no credits left and you had either of these apps – he/she could still ring and contact you.  A basic phone would not be able to do that.

What other benefits are there?

In the event that the phone is stolen, it can be tracked by using the data plan and a tracking app (that would’ve been set up).  That also means that the person can be tracked as well, but most people would use this feature when the device has been stolen.

The smartphone can also be used for education.  There are many schools that use e-learning apps in the classroom and the student can access these from home.  The notes from class can be used at home to study or to write a report.

Messaging: There are other free message apps that can be used if the phone credits run out e.g Viber, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger.

 If your child becomes lost or disorientated they are able to use the maps (GPS) app through a smartphone.

That’s the good stuff – what about the bad?

 With any device rules and etiquette, tracking and monitoring (not just physically but also the amount of time that they spend on the device) and contracts before the person is allowed their device is a good thing.  It’s used to be is my child ready to own and use a cellphone?  Now many parents are asking about how to guide and regulate the use of the device.

Tracking and monitoring can be used with web activity (what websites are they visiting?), social activity (Who are my children talking too?), Apps activity (what apps are they using the most), Location activity (where is my child going?).

Some of the tracking is done without the child being aware or parents prohibit children from password protecting their smartphones.  But if the device is stolen depending on the circumstances – a password would be a good thing especially if it resets all the data after a number of unsuccessful attempts.

Habits that should to be discussed with the teen are serious ones such as texting while driving, sexting – sending images that are objectionable, cyber bullying and cheating in school.

Take a look at this smartphone pledge for kids and teens.  It’s a good discussion starter and raises some really valid points.

Hope that helps…
Short + Sweet = Simple IT,
GG *Gadget Girl

If you want to let us know how you and your child uses a cellphone or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.  

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Who is Tracey

Kia ora, my name is Tracey. I <3 technology, community (not-for-profit) and education/learning opportunities. I’m keen to learn, help, share, support and connect - so feel free to catch up with me on Twitter @askgadgetgirl


  1. Halil Reply →

    The net generation can’t do without the internet. Smartphone can be very helpful to your kid if used properly. It can also be a distraction if not used the right way.

    You just have to consider what you want from it and it’s consequences to see whether it’ll do good to the kid.

    You should also monitor the child properly to ensure he/she is using the smartphone the right way!

    1. Tracey Reply →

      Kia ora Halil,
      Thanks for your comment 🙂
      For parents, if they don’t have a smartphone googling the parent smartphone contract is a great way to start. Here in New Zealand, schools have computer use and internet policies, so parents could also ask their local schools as well.
      Thanks again,

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