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What to Consider When Purchasing a Child’s First Smartphone

How old is old enough for a smartphone? What are the risks of buying my child a smartphone? Does my child REALLY need a smartphone?

As parents, we’re all going to hear our children make the following statement at one point or another: “But, ALL of my friends have smartphones.” Children are wise and they know a statement like that strikes us parents particularly well because one of the last things we want to do is alienate our children from their peers. For children growing up in this technology-rich world, having a smart device is almost a rite of passage, transitioning them from children without the freedom to own and access their own technology to young people with the independence to connect with their friends and scroll the internet.

We help our kids navigate this rite of passage by determining for ourselves when (not if) to buy them their first smartphone–this is simply a permanent fixture in the landscape of being a modern parent. So, how can we make informed decisions and set healthy parameters for our children when we begin to take their “need” for having a smartphone seriously?

According to The Online Mom, an information website and organization founded by parents with extensive tech backgrounds, there are a few questions parents should ask themselves when considering taking the plunge and heading down to their local phone retailer:

  • First, why does my child want/need a smartphone? Does my child need the phone to stay connected with me or for emergency situations?
  • Next, does my child understand and respect the usage limits I’ve placed on other things in the house like TV and video games?
  • Next, does my child understand how to surf the Internet safely? (Do they know what is OK to share and what is NOT?)
  • Finally, can my child demonstrate how to use the phone safely? (Do they know with whom to communicate with whom not to?)

Answering these questions helps us get a pulse on whether or not our child is ready for their first smartphone. As we all know, children mature differently. While one child might be able to show responsibility with a smartphone at 10 years old, another might not show that same level of responsibility until 13, 14 or older. The decision is up to whether or not you, as the parent, determine your child to be ready.

As parents, we created eCarrot apps as a way to ensure our children were spending a portion of their time on their smart devices actually learning. We saw our oldest daughter was having no problem texting and playing games on her phone, but we wanted peace of mind in knowing that some of her smart-device use was going toward making her smarter. We didn’t launch eCarrot until after our oldest daughter was beyond that highly impressionable and developmental age range between about 8 and 14 years old. But, we did have eCarrot Math developed in time for our youngest daughter, which made the decision easier when it came time to consider letting her share use on our smart devices and, eventually, get one of her own.

Regardless of the age at which your child receives their first smartphone, we recommend having open communication and a clear understanding of what’s acceptable and what is not. With eCarrot installed on their phone, you’ll have a way of knowing from the very beginning that a portion of the time your child spends on their smartphone will be dedicated to learning. You won’t have to be the bad guy and restrict your child from their smartphone because they start neglecting using the phone for education–with eCarrot, your child’s free time is dependent on how much education time they bank first. Our platform has kids focus on education first and recreation later–a formula we strongly believe in for children receiving their first smartphone.

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  • “My kids are engaged and learning. I am able to sit with the one child at a time because the others are motivated and engaged!” Michelle T., 1st Grade Teacher
  • “It is like doing homework and getting a reward.” 8 Year Old
  • “eCarrot is great working with my students with Autism. They get to choose what they are working for on the tablet, so they are motivated to do the work. It really gives the students a lot of input in their learning and practice.” Ann R., Teenagers (Combined) Teacher
  • “We like that we have to earn the time for the fun.” 7 Year Old
  • “The children are telling other students about the fun they are having.” Lisa N., 2nd Grade Teacher
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  • “eCarrot is turning over their performance into other assignments and their math scores are improving.” Mandi F., 3rd - 5th (Combined) Teacher
  • “It gives you time to learn and then time to play games.” 10 Year Old
  • “What a great way to help our kids improve their math scores and abilities.” Matt S., ED, Boys & Girls Club Chapter
  • “I feel happy and excited, it is great.” 7 Year Old