6 Things To Do Before Giving Your Teenager Their First Smartphone


As you decide whether it’s a good idea to get your teenager a cell phone, here are six things you should consider.

Ask the Hard Questions

Owning a smartphone is a big responsibility—is your teen ready?  Look back on past instances where your teen had opportunities to show you commitment and maturity.  Can they keep to a nightly curfew?  Do they have problems staying away from video games when it’s time to do homework?  Past behavior is a good indicator of your kid’s ability to obey your rules about using their new smartphone going forward.  Wait until your teen shows you consistent behavior in staying within your boundaries before presenting the phone.  Remember, smartphones make great gifts to use in rewarding your teen for being responsible and trustworthy of receiving his first phone.

Review Your Data Plan

Teens consume media, including music and videos, in ways that you don’t.  A kid might consider their phone the first choice to watch their favorite shows or check out new music.  All that online viewing can put a strain on your cell phone plan.  Take a look at your current data allowance and adjust it to accommodate your teen’s anticipated usage. Set up data limits for their smartphone so your son or daughter doesn’t blow through all your data in a week with constant video streaming.

Add and Activate Security Features

A smartphone spits out an incredible amount of information every time you take a picture, send a text message, or use an app.  Without proper precaution, that info makes pinpointing your teen’s location in real-time a possibility for someone looking to do your child harm.  Here’s what you need to do:

  • Disable geo locating: Cutting the ability to send location information with pictures is crucial. You can do this from within the phone’s settings menu with a single swipe under the security section.
  • Set up password protections: Pick out a password for the phone and write it down. Don’t use predictable number strings like your birthday or social security number. You can also set the phone to wipe all its information with repeated failed log-in attempts to protect your teen’s personal information, if someone steals the phone.
  • Download apps for safety: If your teen is old enough to drive, you need to an app that’s going to deter them from texting while behind the wheel. Canary is an app designed for parents that gives instant feedback on your teen’s driving behavior, including their speed and texting habits. If your son or daughter tries to use their phone while driving, you’ll know right away.

Create the Rules for Cell Phone Use

Write down your house rules for cell phone use before you give the teen a new smartphone.  This step is a good way to create proper boundaries about phone etiquette.  For example, no using the phone at the dinner table or when you’re talking to him or her.  You’ll want to set a good example for your teen, so make sure you can abide by most of the rules as well.  Your kid isn’t going to obey rules about texting while at the table if you can’t refrain from doing it either.

Set up Spending Alerts

Ever heard the story about the family dealing with a $3,000 phone bill because one of their kids went crazy with in-app purchases?  Don’t let that happen to your bank account.  Enable spending alerts on your bill so you know if your teen makes an app purchase.  You could also use a pre-paid debit card to link to their app marketplace account so your son or daughter can make tiny app purchases each month without going over your budgeted amount.

Remember to Stay Positive

Giving your teen their first smartphone is a test, but it’s also a happy occasion. Present your rules about use with a smile.  If you frame your restrictions in a positive light, your kid is more likely to obey them instead of looking for a loophole to get around them.  Remember that all rules you set must stay flexible and are subject to change based on your teenager’s behavior.  That way your teen feels like he or she is earning your trust and you believe your kid deserves it.

Both my boys have smartphones and they have been very responsible with them.  Their phones really come in handy when it is time to check up on them while they are away from home.


2 thoughts on “6 Things To Do Before Giving Your Teenager Their First Smartphone”

  1. Our decision with our daughter was taken right out of our hands when it (and the paid for plan) was gifted her for Christmas one year by a family member who thought we were depriving her. -_- Now my daughter has an iPhone and me and hubby have minutes phones, hahahaha (by choice). She’s had it a few years now though, and she does great with it. It is is a comfort as far as safety goes to know she’s got it on her, and I like when she sends over a text just to say hi when she’s out and about w/her buds. 🙂

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