Friday, March 21, 2014

You make the call when handing over your child's first smartphone

Nolan Young, 3, front, looks at a smart phone while his brother Jameson, right, 4, looks at a smart tablet at their home, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


A smartphone for a child is not that outrageous, especially considering there are companies marketing special apps that make taking selfies super-easy for little fingers. Why, you can even buy a pillow with a smartphone pocket so toddlers can take selfies during diaper change.

“Giving a child his or her first smartphone provides a unique teachable moment,” said Jennifer Caukin, a spokeswoman for Zact Mobile, a company that offers no-contract smart mobile plans for parents. “My son, he’s 8 years old and he is very hands-on with the smartphone.”

There is no getting around the technology. Like the generation of parents who wrangled with the idea of putting a TV in their child’s room, today’s parents debate the use of iPads and smartphones.

The key at this age is control.

Zact Mobile was recently awarded The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval for the level of mobile control that it gives to parents of young children.

“You can set restrictions and permissions for the kind of app that you’re going to allow your child to use, even at what time of day they can use it,” said Caukin, who also has a 6-year-old. What’s also nice about the program is the control over the child’s phone comes via an app that parents download on their own smartphone. Caukin said one of the surveys conducted by Zact had to do with who their child is talking to. “We removed that worry by adding the permission (option),” Caukin said. Worried about texting under the covers? With the app parents don’t have to take their child’s phone away at bedtime, they just turn it off.

The plan also cuts down on costs as parents can create a kid-size mix of talk, text and data. “That’s the biggest mistake parents make,” Caukin said. “They pay for more data than their child will use.”

How much data does a kid need?

According to Zact Mobile, 1 GB of data will provide the following:

  • 102 hours of web surfing
  • 51 hours of Facebook
  • 41,000 emails
  • 5,243 photos uploaded
  • 29 hours on Google maps
So, what’s the best smartphone to buy your child?

Since there is no contract you’ll pay a little more for the initial device. “The Samsung ZTE Awe is a really great entry level smartphone as it small and lightweight,” Caukin said. “It has a really nice built-in camera too.”

Whatever plan or smartphone you decide on, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child and not only go through a few ground rules, but let him or her be in on the initial setup. 

To get started here are 10 essential tips to consider before handing over your child's first smartphone courtesy of the experts at Zact Mobile (zact.com):   

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