Back in the day the “big conversation” at the dinner table was about when to allow your child to go to the movies for a first date, or drive the family car. Typically this is what made turning 16 such a big deal. But now a days parents are negotiating with their much younger children about when they can have their first “smartphone”.

Sure – the smartphone has everything a kid could want: internet access, social media, the ability to instantly “talk” to their friends, or even “snapchat” photos back and forth – It’s what the “cool kids” have! But smartphones also have a lot of dangers associated with them. So before rushing to your local Big Box store to fulfill your child’s “dream gift” consider all of the pros and cons.

First – you are the parent! Your number one job is to keep your children “safe” even if that means being the most unpopular parent in the neighborhood (or universe). It can be tempting to give into what your child says is “the ONLY thing they want for their holiday gift”. But is it worth giving in to them at the risk of opening Pandora’s Box?

In a recent conversation with members of Sonoma County law enforcement; they advise parents not to allow their child to own a smartphone until they begin high school. Why? Well because your 8 – 13 year old does not have the capacity to fully understand the risks involved with “over-sharing” on their electronic devices.

“Sexting” can begin as early as 5th grade for some students who are simply seeking attention. The earlier they begin using a smartphone, the earlier they stop having face-to-face interactions and can even become addicted to their device. Is it worth satisfying their “wish” this holiday at the risk of these potential outcomes? We don’t think so.

This does not mean they cannot have a cell phone in which they can talk and text you and their friends. This way you have a means of communicating with them, without having to worry about their taking inappropriate images, online bullying, or being exposed to potential adult predators (or even older child predators) who may not have your child’s best interests in mind.

We understand this particular blog may not please your Tween-Ager (or the stores selling smartphones), but what matters most is to keep our kids safe. The longer you keep Pandora’s Box shut, the longer your child will avoid the dangers that come hand in hand with a smartphone. This is when being a parent can be the toughest, because we all want our kids to “like us” but it should never be in trade for taking the heat for keeping them safe.

The shopping season is well on its way and we hope this has helped with making one of the more difficult (but important) purchasing decisions!!!