This is a guest post by Tyler Jacobson. 

There you are, minding your own business and being a perfectly satisfied parent, when your teenager suddenly introduces a bit of pandemonium into your world by saying, “I want a smartphone! Can I have one? Please? Please?!”

For parents of yesteryear, perhaps the most difficult decision to make was when to allow their teen to have his or her first car. Those days are gone, replaced by the age of technology and the advent of the smartphone. The proliferation of smartphones in society has given rise to the parenting dilemma of the modern age: When is the right time to buy my child his or her first smartphone?

Most parents don’t have a problem with whether or not to buy a device for their kid. Forbidding your child to own one because you don’t want to deal with the potential hazards is hardly a reasonable option — it will only make him or her want one all the more. Instead, parents express legitimate concerns about teen safety. They want to know when to entrust a potentially dangerous gizmo into the hands of their beloved offspring. Here are a few things to consider when making this decision.

Emotional and Social Concerns

Consider the social and emotional level of your child. Is your son or daughter able to talk to people face-to-face? Can they interact with others at the dinner table? If not, giving them a smartphone will only delay social development by providing a way to isolate. Children need face-to-face interaction for optimal emotional development, so it’s important to make sure that your child’s emotional growth isn’t stunted by giving them a handset before they are ready for it.

The Reason for a Phone

Determine the purpose in giving your child a phone. Rather than trying to decide the right age for a smartphone, instead focus on why. What will the phone be used for? Do they want one simply because all of their friends have one, or does your kid need to be able to communicate with you after school? Does your son want a device so that he can bury himself in online games, or do you want to track his whereabouts through a GPS app?

Age and Maturity

Although age is not the determining factor, it certainly enters into the equation. An expert in children and media believes that in general, it’s simply unwise to hand over a smartphone to children under the age of 12 or 13.

Responsible Parenting

When is it a safe time to get your kid a smartphone? In the end, the answer depends largely on your definition of “safe.” If safe means “without risk,” the answer is never. However, parents can implement safety features, such as parental controls, and teach their middle-school children how to responsibly use their smartphones. By minimizing the risks of use, they will find that the advantages of a smartphone for their young person outweigh the disadvantages.

Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and writer, with experience as the content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. Tyler has offered advice and humor to struggling parents and teens, education problems, the world of social media, addiction, and pressing issues with raising a teen today. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin

Join @ParentingSquad on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoogle+, and Pinterest. Have a funny, touching or interesting story to share about kids and parenting? Email us at Editor (at) ParentingSquad.com.