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When to give your child today’s most coveted gift—their first smartphone (or a “connected” device of any kind)—is one of the biggest decisions a parent will have to make. Remember, a “connected device” is any gadget that connects to the internet. In addition to smartphones, this includes tablets, computers, gaming consoles, e-readers, smartwatches, and even Bluetooth- enabled toys and assistants. All of these have the capability of connecting your kids to all the world’s people and information, all the time. Any missteps they make on a connected device may be permanently recorded, for everyone to see. This is a weighty responsibility, and kids are woefully unprepared without guidance.

When parents ask, “What’s the right age to give my children (insert type of connected device here)?” we counter their question with one of our own. Well, seven questions, to be exact. We think every parent should first answer these questions before determining whether his child is ready for a connected device:

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• Have your children developed the social and emotional skills

necessary to use their gadgets wisely? Have they learned how to

show empathy, kindness, respect, and civility? These capacities

evolve over time. They are in high demand online, and when

expressed there, can turn it into the safer, kinder environment

adults dream about.

• Do your children know how to manage their online reputations?

Increasingly, colleges and employers (and others) are looking

to the internet to learn about our kids. So, do your children know that everything they post, and everything others post about them, contributes to an online reputation that speaks volumes about their character?

• Do your children know how to unplug? By their own accounts,

teens say they feel “addicted” to their devices.21 Have you equipped

your children with strategies (and reasons) to unplug from their

virtual worlds and plug into “real” life now and then?

• Do your children know how to make and maintain safe and healthy relationships? Can they keep themselves safe from cyberbullying,

predators, sexting, revenge porn, sextortion, and other

online dangers? Do they know what to do if they encounter (and

they probably will) dangerous or unhealthy relationships online?

• Do your children know how to protect their privacy and personal

information? In the excitement to sign up for new services and to share with friends, many kids unwittingly give away too much personal information, especially when those too young to

know better use social media. (Three-quarters of children between

ages ten and twelve have social media accounts, despite being

below the minimum age requirement.)

• Do your children know how to think critically about the information

they find online? Are they able to evaluate media messages

for their accuracy, authority, currency, and bias? Not knowing

how to do so leaves kids vulnerable to misinformation, “fake news,”

and more.

• Are your children equipped to be digital leaders? Do they know

how to be upstanders? The internet is in desperate need of kids who

can stand up to bullies, create inspiring content, make moving videos,

share uplifting stories, and invent new technologies that

improve our world. Are your kids equipped to make their digital

world better and safer?


If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then your children are not ready for the massive responsibility of owning a connected device. The stakes are too high. However, they can learn all of these life skills. Here's how!


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Do you know about our award-winning middle school digital literacy curriculum?



Check out "Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology" by founder Diana Graber


Our Cyberwise Chats are now available on all of your favorite podcast platforms.


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 The Cyber Civics curriculum is now available for parents to teach at home too!


Let us send you a newsletter every couple of weeks with tricks and tips to help you raise awesome digital kids!

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