Parenting Help

Smartphones and Tablets Under the Christmas Tree?


Are This Year’s Christmas Gifts Helping or Hindering Our Children
Jonathan McKee

Piper Jaffray asked almost 10,000 teenagers what they want for Christmas this year, and Apple was the number one brand they desired by a landslide, with Nike coming in second, then Louis Vuitton coming in third (Adidas and Lulu were also high on their list).

The number one Apple product in demand this year were AirPods Pro. Forget normal Airpods. Those were sooooooooo last year.

Let’s face it. Kids love their devices!

In fact, gadgets represented 40% of Gen Z’s Top 10 “wants” for Christmas this year. Last year the same survey revealed the iPhone as the number one item on teenager’s wish list, with the Apple Watch and Airpods also in high demand.

So the question is, do we get our kids what they want? Do we get them screens for Christmas?

I guess we probably should define the word “kids.”

Porn in the Bedroom
If by “kid” we mean pre-pubescent, then the more specific question we might be asking is, “Should I give my 10- or 11-year-old that smartphone or iPad they’ve been begging me for?” Many, if not most, of their friends already have them. In a world where over half of 11-year-olds have smartphones, it’s not uncommon for a 5th or 6th grader to get a new iPhone or tablet.

So I guess the question Mom and Dad should really be asking is, do I want to give little Taylor a device with access to social media, YouTube and porn in my kids’ bedroom every night? Yes, even the photo sharing app Instagram has ramifications parents should carefully consider, which is probably why child safety advocates Common Sense Media recommend the app for kids age 15+.

Parents… we’ve come a long way since wrapping My Little Pony.

Here’s the deal: there is no correct age to give your kids a phone, just good rules of thumb—like wait until they’re mature enough to handle it. So when exactly is that? It’s a difficult decision. Just realize a few things:

  1. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, you just made your job as a parent waaaaaaaaay more difficult. Why? Keep reading…
  2. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, you now have to decide whether you will monitor what apps they download, and if you do, then you need to maintain a password they won’t guess.
  3. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, and you decide to monitor what they download, you now need to decide if you’ll allow them to download social media platforms like SnapChat, Instagram, or TikTok, which, if they are under 13 would require them to lie about their age.
  4. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, and they decide to download social media, you might want to consider some of the unforeseen consequences of social media today.
  5. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, you’ll need to decide if they will bring it into their bedroom every night, against pretty much every expert’s recommendation.
  6. If you do give your kids a smartphone or tablet, you’ll need to decide what are sensible, bare minimum screen limits.

Those are a lot of decisions!

Are you sure you want to give your 10-year-old a screen that requires all that? (And newsflash… this is not just about smartphones. A tablet requires you to make every single one of those same decisions above.)

Like a Car
I’m not suggesting you never give your kids screens. I think it’s good to try to teach your kids (and model) how to use screens responsibly before they go out on their own. The question is… when?

Think of a phone like a car.

Chances are, you wouldn’t just throw your 10-year-old the keys to the car and say, “Don’t do anything stupid!” But that’s exactly what an overwhelming majority of parents do with screens.

What if instead we treated a phone like a car and…

  • We waited until a certain age when our kids were mature enough to handle all the responsibility the phone requires.
  • We required our kids to actually learn how to be responsible with the phone, having them read about wise posting in an insecure world and discuss it with their parent or a positive adult role model?
  • We taught them the importance of who to “let in their car”…who to accept as friends and followers.
  • We dialogued with them about many of the distractions they’ll encounter.

Perhaps we might re-think giving our 10-year-old that screen. But if you do decide to give your kids such a powerful little device, be ready to place some sensible screen limits and engage them in ongoing conversations about responsible media use.

Or…you could just buy them My Little Pony.


The Teen’s Guide to Social Media and Mobile Devices: 21 Tips to Wise Posting in an Insecure World

The Unforeseen Problem with Insta Followers: Why pedophiles and sex traffickers are loving social media

Sensible (Bare Minimum) Screen-Limits: Reasonable rules that won’t wreck the relationship

But Mom, I really need my phone in my bedroom: The link between screens, sleep loss and depression…and what Mom and Dad can actually do about it

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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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