Buying a smartphone for teens

Rebecca StanisicIt’s time to buy a smartphone for my youngest (who is only a few months away from being 14 years old). While we know there are considerations and conversations needed around the use of phones, safety, apps, privacy and other responsibilities when owning a phone, we also know the time is right.

Having access to a text service and phone service is important for my kids as they get older and are on their own more and more. Whether staying after school for extracurriculars (and needing to let us know if pick up time has changed), or meeting friends at the park to hang out, being able to be connected is important for all of us.

Plus, with teens, we have discovered that texting is one of their favourite ways to communicate and it makes sense to follow that lead.

So that leaves us shopping for a phone.

Photo of a teen using their cell phoneLet’s be honest, the cost is prohibitive. A new smartphone is expensive! But there are many used options available that work perfectly well. That’s what I’ll be looking for when shopping. It doesn’t have to be brand new. Our eldest has an old phone that my husband used and for years it’s been all he’s needed. We will use it until the updates no longer take. If I was updating my own phone, I could pass along my current one, but I’m keeping it for a while longer.

When searching for a used phone, the ability to accept updates are a priority. But size will also be looked at. There are many new ones that are too big and don't fit comfortably in pockets or securely in a bag. Not to mention they are hard to even hold. There’s also functionality. We don’t need a phone that can do anything magical – it primarily needs text and cell service.

Speaking of cell service, that adds to the cost as well. We’ve decided this is a must-have for our kids so we will pay for the phone bill for the time being. This doesn’t absolve them of their responsibilities to take care of it and not go over the use of their data etc. But for us it’s the right decision at this time.

I know many families are having these same discussions: When is the right time to get a phone? What’s the best plan and how can we keep the costs down? Does everyone know the importance of privacy? (You can find a lot of resources about online privacy on the Mediasmarts website here!)

As I continue my shopping journey to find the right phone, I still have those questions and concerns about safety and privacy as well. It’s the right time, but am I ever really ready for these milestones? We keep having open conversations together as a family about safety, which helps.

A couple of final thoughts/tips: We are definitely getting a case and likely glass protector too. No one wants to replace a broken phone and I would be lying if I said I haven’t accidentally dropped mine before (but it was fortunately protected!).

Finally, check out MediaSmarts’ Family guidelines for new tech devices: it’s a template parents and guardians can use to create a contract with their kids when they get new devices, in order to spark a conversation about healthy digital habits and set practical family online rules.


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