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Do’s and Don’ts Guide to Smartphones for Tech-Savvy Kids

Kale Haverold
Do’s and Don’ts Guide to Smartphones for Tech-Savvy Kids
Smartphones are a wonderful tool to communicate, work, entertain ourselves, and more. While most adults have one, more and more children are starting to get them from their parents at an early age.

Smartphones allow kids to connect and socialize with friends, stay in contact with family, and even learn new things. But before you run out and get your child a smartphone, there are a few important factors to consider.

This guide breaks down five do’s and five don’ts for giving your tech-savvy kid a smartphone.

Do: Consider Your Child’s Age

Before getting your child a phone, it’s a good idea to consider their age. By age 10, 42% of American children have a phone. This rises to 71% by age 12 and 91% by age 14. So, between 10 and 12 is when most kids in the US start using their own smartphones, and nearly all will have one before 14.

Ultimately, though, you know your kid best. If you feel they’re ready for a smartphone before age 10, that’s fine—as is waiting until they’re a bit older. 

When deciding, you might consider factors like whether your child walks to and from school alone, is at an age where they hang out with friends without adult supervision, or does extracurricular activities after school. These factors indicate your child has some independence, and it may be a good idea for them to have a way to reach you quickly if needed.

Also, consider your child’s maturity level and what they want or need the phone for before deciding whether to buy it.

Do: Get a Suitable, Affordable Smartphone

Countless smartphones exist, but not all are child-friendly. Therefore, it’s a good idea to research devices made specifically for kids. These often have features like GPS tracking, app usage monitoring, robust parental controls, and more. Some popular options in this space include Bark and Gabb. 

In addition to the phone’s features, consider its cost. It’s wise to look for something budget-friendly, as you may not feel comfortable spending a fortune on a phone for your child— especially if it’s the first one they’ll use.

Do: Choose the Right Plan

Just as choosing the right smartphone for your child is important, so is selecting the right plan. This could be a specific plan for your child’s device or a family plan that bundles multiple devices. 

It’s up to you whether or not you want to include data or other add-ons to the plan, but it’s generally a good idea to select a plan with unlimited texting and/or calling. This is a great way to ensure you can always contact your child—without worrying about them accidentally going over a calling or texting limit. 

Other features to consider in a plan include spam call detection, a reliable network, data overage protection, and others. You should also consider what your child will use the phone for—for instance, mainly texting and limited internet browsing—and how easy it is to update or cancel a plan if your needs change.

There are many options on the market, so be sure to check out some of the best mobile plans for kids and compare them to help you decide.

Do: Set Screen Time Limits

Setting screen time limits can help ensure your child isn’t “glued to” their smartphone. These limits can vary depending on your child’s age, what they use the device for, and your preferences for your child’s smartphone use. 

You might set a limit informally, such as telling your child they can use their phone for 15 minutes before school and 45 minutes after dinnertime. Then, you can physically take the device away from your child once they’ve reached their screen time limit. 

However, most smartphones let you set formal screen time limits for apps directly within the device settings. Typically, once your child reaches their limit for a particular app, a pop-up will appear and lock them out until the correct password is entered to override the limit.

Additionally, you should set usage restrictions that you’re comfortable with. This could involve restricting certain apps or implementing parental controls using the device’s features. For example, if you don’t want your child accessing social media or a shopping app like Amazon, you can hide or block the apps from being opened.

Do: Discuss Proper Etiquette for Device Use

It’s crucial to set ground rules and discuss device etiquette with your child before getting them a smartphone. Explain your expectations about how your child should use their phone, including when they can and can’t use it. 

Some rules you could set include not using the phone at the dinner table, while doing homework, or while having an in-person conversation with a friend or family member.

Also, let your child know they must respect different establishments’ rules about appropriate smartphone usage. For example, you should tell your child to follow school guidelines about using phones during class and breaks. Likewise, teach your child not to use their phone during a movie at the theater. 

Don’t: Set a Bad Example

When you allow your child to have a smartphone, setting a good example is essential. You’re their role model, and if you aren’t using your phone appropriately, you can’t expect them to either.

For example, say you establish a rule that your child should use their phone for only one hour each day—but you use your phone for multiple hours per day. Naturally, your child might be confused because you’re saying one thing to them and doing the opposite in your own life. As a result, it can be challenging to convince them to follow your guidance.

Don’t: Forget to Teach Your Children Internet Safety

Before you give your child a smartphone, it’s essential to explain to them how to use it—and any apps and tools that connect to the internet—safely. This is important even if your child is tech-savvy and understands how to navigate the device. 

Teach your child to avoid sharing personal information, be careful who they interact with, and always think twice about anything they post or do online using their smartphone. Similarly, ensure they know to be kind online, and go over the importance of being nice to others when texting and using social media.

Don’t: Allow Downloads Without Approval

Having a smartphone involves downloading and using apps. These apps serve various purposes, from entertainment to health tracking, and can introduce additional functionality to a device.

There’s a good chance that if your child wants a smartphone, they'll want some apps on it. However, you should make a point early on to ensure your child always comes to you for approval before downloading anything on their device.

Some apps come with a monetary cost, either to download the app initially or to access extra features, so approving downloads can help you avoid unnecessary spending. Others could even compromise a device’s security. Most importantly, though, you never want your child to download an app that may be inappropriate for them to use, such as apps meant for adults only. 

Don’t: Ignore the Warning Signs of Unhealthy Use

While having and using a smartphone isn’t inherently unhealthy, there are some cases where it can become a problem. It’s essential to keep tabs on your child’s usage and ensure they aren’t falling into unhealthy habits or becoming “obsessed” with their smartphone.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Your child throws tantrums when they’ve reached a screen time limit.
  • Their phone interferes with school work, their relationships with friends and family, or their sleep schedule. 
  • Your child becomes irritable or frequently complains about boredom when they can’t use their phone. 

If you notice these signs, you should address and correct them with your child as soon as possible. There are a few ways to do this, such as speaking about the potential downsides of too much tech usage (a lack of sleep, for example) and providing some exciting offline activities for them to get involved in. 

Or, you could introduce it as a “we” issue if you also struggle with phone usage. You and your child can make a pact to develop better phone usage habits as a team. For instance, you can promise each other to use your phones for only one hour per day.

Don’t: Let Your Child Be Irresponsible With Their Phone

It can be exciting for kids to receive a smartphone, but ensuring they understand how to use it responsibly and respectfully is vital. Explain that the device isn’t a toy—it’s valuable, and they should be careful not to damage or lose it. 

For example, ensure they don’t use the phone near water, toss it carelessly into their backpack or purse, or leave it unattended in a public place.

If you notice them being irresponsible with their phone, you can tell them they need to be more careful if they want to continue using it. Otherwise, you can consider taking the device away or enacting another consequence.

But kids are still kids, and accidents can happen even if they’re being as responsible as they can be. So, it’s a smart idea to get a protective case for the phone to prevent damage. 


Getting a phone for your child is an excellent way to ensure you can always reach them. Plus, they’re also great for helping children socialize, entertain themselves through games and content streaming apps, and learn new things online.  

However, you must be sure to go about things correctly. By following the do’s and don’ts outlined in this guide, you can ensure you’re prepared for your child to have a phone and use it responsibly.

Kale Haverold
Kale Haverold has over 5 years of experience crafting articles about credit cards, loans, debt, and a raft of other personal finance topics. Beyond contributing to Top10.com, he his writing has been featured on BestMoney, Yahoo, Hardbacon, and Loans Canada. Kale's easy-to-digest, research-driven articles stem from his passion to share knowledge that helps readers make informed financial decisions.