Dangers Every Parent Should Know Before Giving Their Student A Smartphone

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Dangers Every Parent Should Know Before Giving Their Student A Smartphone

December 21, 2020
Green Zone

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We believe this app is a STARTING POINT for your student, but that you must monitor your student on every app they are on. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Gray Zone

Parents and Teachers: Please note this app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe.
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Red Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone. We believe this app is not safe for students to use without adult supervision. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Dangerous Social media challenges

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge. Knowing about social media challenges before your teen does can help you keep them safe before an incident occurs. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Table of Contents

Many students want smartphones and might even feel peer pressure to own one. But smartphones are powerful devices that give students access to the entire world by way of the internet and popular photo, video, and communication apps. Smartphones have the potential to enrich a student's life, but they can also pose some serious risks.

This article goes over some of the dangers every parent should know before giving their student a smartphone and suggests some safe device alternatives for children.

Are smartphones safe for students?

People can easily get addicted to phones, especially children who have less impulse control. In fact, engineers have purposely designed many apps to become addicting.

Pew researchers found:

  • 95% of teens now have access to a smartphone (they own one, or use their parents’ or friends’)
  • 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”
  • 65% of parents are worried about their kid’s screentime

Some experts warn smartphones can negatively impact tween’s and teen’s mental health, including:

  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • low self-esteem
  • sleep issues
  • even suicide

Smartphone use can also make students susceptible to:

  • online bullying
  • online predators
  • screen time addiction
  • lack of motivation for offline activities

Some researchers now consider smartphone use a "public health crisis"

FastCompany headline: Public health crisis: 25% of youth addicted to phones, often with mental health problems
Researchers put out an SOS call about youth and smartphone use: the largest study of its kind shows that one in four display phone-addiction behavior. ‘Problematic smartphone use poses a different and arguably much bigger public health problem than substance abuse or even internet gaming’ write the authors. Fast Company

Do parental controls work?

Sure there are many parental control programs available, but students have ways to outsmart many of them. Tweens and teens can easily find videos on YouTube to teach them how to get around the blocks set by adults. If you are looking for parental control software, here are Smart Social’s recommendations.

Can your child’s first phone hurt their online footprint?

Yes! Your student should know that nothing they put online is ever really private. Negative posts could impact their chances of getting into college or landing a future job. Just look at what happened to ten students who had their offers to Harvard rescinded after administrators discovered offensive posts in a private, online Facebook messaging group.

If used in a positive way, social media can also help enhance a student’s digital footprint. Here are 20 Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly.

SmartSocial recommends a Gabb Wireless phone

We partnered with Gabb Wireless to bring you a special offer. With our partnership link, you will usually save money (compared to the normal price), and if you purchase with our link, you are supporting SmartSocial.com.


This device looks like a smartphone but is specifically designed for tweens and teens. It will not let users access the internet, online games, social media, the App Store, or Google Play. 

As an added bonus, SmartSocial.com readers get an extra $10 off a Gabb Wireless phone by using this link.

Gabb Wireless has all of the features your child needs from a phone including:

  • calling
  • texting
  • calendar
  • alarm
  • calculator
  • camera

"We are thrilled to deliver the first-ever phones and service that give kids mature-looking devices with all the talk and text they want, while also giving parents the peace of mind that their child will not be exposed to harmful or unwanted content," said Gabb Founder and CEO Stephen Dalby. "It helps parents manage their children's exposure to technology in a way that is safe and meets each family's unique needs."

Gabb phones operate on a proprietary network and cannot be added to a current cell phone plan. Monthly plans start at $19.99/month and are "pay-as-you-go," with no long-term contracts required.

PopSugar headline: A No-internet, just-for-kids cell phone is here, and it's every parent's dream
The best part? Your kids can communicate [on Gabb] with their loved ones freely via call or text, sans unlimited internet access and an app store. POPSUGAR

Gabb Wireless 2020 Unboxing Video (this is for an older model. Gabb now offers a Z2 with additional, more advanced features):

Additional safe device recommendations

Pinwheel Phone

Pinwheel Phone

This phone was built by parents and is designed for kids ages 6 to 13. It has no social media, ads, Internet browser, or workarounds. You can adjust the types of apps based on the age and maturity of your child. Models ranges from $149 to $249 plus the cost of monthly service

Verizon Gizmo watch

Verizon GizmoWatch

Verizon’s GizmoWatch lets children receive calls, but only from numbers pre-approved by their parents. Parents can also let them send up to 20 pre-approved text messages.  Verizon's GizmoHub app lets parents locate their children at any time and get alerts if they travel outside a predetermined safety zone. The GizmoWatch also has a fitness and hopscotch tracker.

Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie

Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie

The Relay Phone/Walkie Talkie is a push-to-talk screenless device. It lets parents chat with their kids and track their whereabouts. The phone also has channels for kids to listen to music.

Key takeaway: When should my student get a smartphone?

Parents should decide WHEN. Here are suggestions from the SmartSocial.com Team:

Ages 0-10 - No phone

Age 10 - Sign a family cell phone safety agreement

Ages 10-13 - Non-smartphone (a device that lets you text/SMS and make phone calls)

Age 14 - Smartphone (without social media apps installed)

Age 15 - Smartphone (with parent-approved social media apps installed)

If you do get your student an iPhone or an Android smartphone, we have everything parents need to know if our VIP course bundle: Dangers Parents Should Know Before Buying Their Student A New iPhone, Android, Chromebook, or Tablet (And How To Set Them Up).

Join SmartSocial.com's VIP Membership Today

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