Should Your Kid’s First Phone Be A Smartphone?

You know it’s time. You’ve been putting it off but can’t procrastinate any longer. You have to get a cell phone for your child. For the frugal parents reading this, it sounds painful. You probably already feel like you’re handing over an arm and a leg each month for your cellular bill, and adding another line will only make that process more painful.

You’ve resisted the “but everyone else has one” argument for quite some time now, but it’s time to lay that argument down and look for the best option for your little one.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be painful. After all, the first time your child jumps onto your cellular bill will hurt a lot less if they don’t need a smartphone. And that’s not to say the only concern here is your budget either. After all, you agree to this because you want to know where your son or daughter is when they’re outside of the home, and give them a way to contact you wherever and whenever. And it’s also become a cultural norm for just about every kid.

You can only relay text messages from your phone to your child for so long without going crazy.

The simple answer to the question of whether or not the first phone needs to be a smartphone is easy.


If you only really need a lifeline for emergencies, critical communication, and the basics, a flip phone or “feature-less” phone will do just fine. And some of our kids might not even care. After all, most of them have best friends known as their IPad or IPod that already are loaded with games, apps, and even texting options that they use frequently — provided they are connected to Wi-Fi. This also eliminates the 30-50 buck data fees you incur when you add a new user to your plan with a smartphone.

And if you think about it, smartphones weren’t even a thing 10-12 years ago. The question you might want to ask yourself is this.

Do I want my child to have unlimited (usually) access to the internet at all times? This has the potential to put them under the influence of their peers even more so than they experience in normal social settings. And as we all know, there are some real safety concerns we should all have when a child can interact with the type of audience the internet unlocks.

(Plenty of new parental controls exist which can help guard against many of these dangers. So keep that in mind if you plan to get a smartphone for your kids or if they are already using one.)

This is in no way meant to demonize smartphones or the internet. But instead, it’s intended to ask whether or not your child is ready for that experience. Maybe they are ready, and maybe they aren’t. That’s a decision you have to make as a parent, and it’s not an easy one.

Photo credit: Asian Development Bank via / CC BY-NC-ND

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Joe Long