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Choosing my child’s first phone call had serious consequences

As parents, we all have a tremendous responsibility to guide and guide our children in the right way to become full-grown adults and productive members of society. Ensuring that they eat a balanced diet, sending them to the right schools, and engaging in extracurricular activities that promote a healthy body and mind are essential.

When my daughter was born almost 13 years ago, I never thought that choosing her technology platform would become one of those life-changing decisions.

Another time for phones

In those 13-year-old days, the smartphone platforms we know today were in the same kind of childhood as my newborn daughter. The first snapshots from a few minutes after her birth were taken on a shiny new iPhone 3GS. That was almost a year before the software was even called “iOS” and only a year after Apple unveiled the App Store.

Little girl holding her 2007 iPhone in her mouth.
My daughter was a (very) early adopter Jesse Hollington

The idea of ​​blocking the platform was simply not a thing in those days. Sure, I was used to my iPhone, but if you had suddenly snatched it from my hand and given me an HTC Incredible instead, I wouldn’t have lost much sleep because of it. FaceTime and iMessage didn’t exist yet, and iCloud was still called MobileMe. The App Store had only about 100,000 apps, the vast majority of which fell into the category of silly news like iBeer.

Fast forward to 2022, and I realized that as my daughter got into those awkward years between 12 and 20, my decision to buy her smartphone would have lasting repercussions in a way that he has never had before. Admittedly, as much as Apple and Google want to make it easier to change teams, both platforms have enough “glue” to discourage people from moving to the other side. Some of these issues are technical, such as investing in applications or a wider hardware and software ecosystem, while others are purely social.

Your choice of ecosystem

Nowadays, a person’s choice of a smartphone influences other hardware and software decisions, perhaps more than any other factor.

IPhone owners are more likely to gravitate toward a MacBook, HomePod mini or even an Apple TV set-top box. Apple also makes it easy for iPhone users to store photos, contacts, and calendars in iCloud, and when it comes to messaging, the Apple iMessage and FaceTime tools work perfectly. Similarly, those who adopt Android phones will find themselves more comfortable in the warm embrace of Google services, such as Gmail, Drive, Photos, and more.

Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro in hand.
Andy Boxall / Winteringhamfields

After that, it doesn’t take long for kids to start searching for and downloading the latest apps for their new smartphones. Fortunately, games and applications are much more platform independent. As long as your device is high, it doesn’t matter if you play Genshin Impact on an iPhone or Android smartphone and the same goes for social networking. The experience may be slightly different on Android and iOS, but the basic functionality remains the same.

But problems still exist with applications. While Google offers most of its applications on the iPhone, these tools are just as native to most Android phones as iCloud is to the iPhone, which provides a much better experience. You also won’t find any way to access services like iCloud Photos or iMessages on an Android phone. It is difficult to know in which direction to go, especially when it may in turn influence many future technology acquisitions.

Peer pressure

This brings to light the next point when dealing with children and smartphones. While parents should have the last word, your offspring’s favorite platform will be strongly dictated by what all their friends use. There was a time when all cool kids wore BlackBerry devices, and it was especially noticeable here in Toronto, which was the heart of the BlackBerry country in the ’00s.

Close up of someone typing on a Blackberry keyboard.

Many parents naturally handed over their old BlackBerries to their children, who quickly caught on to Blackberry Messenger (BBM), the instant messaging service built into the platform. For a while, Blackberry was the perfect device to send text messages to teenagers, and those who weren’t lucky enough to have one became outlaws.

Today, the same thing is happening with the green bubble phenomenon. Kids with iPhones can use iMessage with its pretty blue bubbles. Those on Android phones or feature phones are limited to communicating with the rest of the group via SMS. They risk being a social pariah because of the green bubbles that appear every time a message is sent to them.

As The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this year, “teenagers are afraid of the green bubble.” According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), more than 70% of American consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are iPhone users, which suggests that at least as many start with the Apple platform as teenagers. The newspaper reports that “social pressure is palpable” among adolescents and students. Some of those interviewed even said that they were “ostracized or highlighted after giving up iPhones”.

Yes, there are alternatives like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. My daughter prefers to chat with most of her friends on Instagram, from all over, because that’s where they seem to spend the most time. But if all of your kids’ friends are iPhone users, chances are they’ll want yours. What is unusual is that this does not seem to apply as much in the other direction. It probably doesn’t help that there isn’t a single Android brand, but Google doesn’t offer the same social world in which to block people. My daughter’s friends who use Android don’t use Google Hangouts or Google Meet so much, and even if they do, those apps are available for iPhone.

Family harmony

Depending on how much you are willing to give your teenager when he or she chooses his or her first smartphone, he or she will consider what the rest of the family uses. Both Apple and Google offer family-centric features, from shared subscriptions to parental control features such as Apple. Screen time. They work best when everyone in the household is on the same platform. For example, because I use an iPhone, I can easily monitor my daughter’s iPhone usage on my device, and I can even approve app purchases and in-app content with Face ID. It’s much harder to buy an Android smartphone.

Whatever I choose for her 13th birthday will be the platform she will use for the rest of her life.

She can also share the family’s Apple One subscription (though she wouldn’t care less about Apple Music because none of her friends use it) and many other subscriptions to the app, apps, and media content I’ve purchased they are also already at her disposal.

However, there is a downside. She only has access to them as long as she stays in my family. One day, when she moves out of the house, she will have to redeem herself and subscribe to everything she wants for her.

However, until then, it will be immersed for almost 10 years on any platform I have chosen in its name. It is a big responsibility, because the probability that she will move on to something else at that moment is small, which means that there is a good chance that whatever she chooses for her 13th birthday will be the platform she will use for the rest of her life.

Apple’s walled garden sounds

Like most parenting, the decision is ultimately about my daughter being part of our family. Because our household is already rooted in the Apple ecosystem, my daughter will have to follow.

Features such as Screen Time and the ability to quickly approve in-app purchases are all too useful to give up. It would also be silly to buy back apps and subscriptions that are already available for an iPhone by sharing the family. There are many more subtle things, such as including it in your HomeKit home automation routines, so that I don’t leave it in the dark when I walk out the door and can easily share things with it through AirDrop.

Fortunately, my daughter does not have strong preferences; as long as whatever she gets can be used to send text messages to friends and play Genshin Impact, she will be happy. For now, at least. Things may change in the future, and young adults often blame their parents for many things from childhood. I can only hope that my choice of smartphone platform for my daughter will not be one of them.

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