How to teach kids to appreciate their smartphones

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
How to teach kids to appreciate their smartphones
Kids these days are basically born with a smartphone in hand. And while the influence "smartphone parenting" has on the development of a kid deserves to be examined as well, today we're going to focus on another related topic. We want to propose a way to teach your child about the value of the device it is fortunate enough to use.

If you're a parent you're probably old enough to remember the times before smartphones and maybe at least occasionally think about how amazing the devices we keep in our pockets/purses are and what we're capable of doing thanks to them.

Kids, however, don't know about the struggle that we, as users, went through before we could enjoy big bright displays and high-speed internet in our palms. So, our plan is simple and straightforward: get them to experience the struggle themselves. But don't worry, it shouldn't take 20 years.

The evolution of mobile phones went through several eras, our goal is for you to take your kid through a few of them, hoping that would lead to both better understanding and better appreciation of modern technology.

If you want to follow our advice, you'll need some props first. Chances are, you already have at least some of them: old phones.

Now, there's no need to go back to the time cell phones were as big as bricks, here is our suggested lineup:

  1. A phone with buttons and monochrome display
  2. A phone with buttons, color display and terrible camera 
  3. A phone with small touch screen, terrible camera and slow internet 
  4. A smartphone a few years older than the final device, without 4G. 
  5. The device you're planning your kid to use


Of course, this is just a rough suggestion and it depends on what phones you can get your hands on. If you're missing some, you can ask friends or family to give you one for a few weeks, or even get one from eBay or Craigslist if you're that devoted. You can add or remove as many steps, but we suggest having at least three transitions. It's not necessary that you have a good phone from each era, one that was annoying even when new will work just as well.

Obviously, the best choice for the first phone is the Nokia 3310. Popular for its toughness and snake game, it shows well how basic the first massively popular mobile phones were.

After that, there are many suitable options for each level. If possible, it would be cool for the child to experience different designs – flip-phone, slider, full qwerty physical keyboard etc. The infamous Sidekick would be a great one to use, as well as Motorola RAZR.

The idea is to have your kids use each phone for a couple of weeks/a month or for as long as you see fit, progressing to a better and better one just as we did throughout our lives. Maybe you can tie the upgrade to the next level to some achievement like good grades, finishing a book or getting rid of that wasps' nest, you know, the usual kids' stuff.


For this experiment to work, it's important to make sure that these devices are actually used during their designated period and not just tossed away after a day. You can create tasks for your kid to perform using the phone or stimulate them some other way to explore its "features". You can tell them stories related to each phone or how old you were when you were using it. Maybe seeing what phone you were using when you were a teenager will make them feel better about the device they have at age 7.

In case your kid already has a SIM card, you'll most likely need an adaptor kit to fit in the older devices that use regular-sized SIM cards. Even then some might not work on your network, but at the end of the day, phone calling and texting isn't really the point of this exercise.

If you've decided to follow our plan, let us know how it went and which models did you choose.

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7 Comments

1. shiv179

Posts: 178; Member since: Aug 08, 2012

We should be teaching them how to forget them!

2. NateDiaz

Posts: 1092; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Good luck with that.

4. Brewski

Posts: 722; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

I like this, I will be doing this for sure. I'm doing this with videos games as well. Start with the NES, then SNES, maybe jump to Xbox, then Xbox One.

6. ShadowUnleashed

Posts: 88; Member since: Feb 08, 2018

That's a good article. I also would love for kids to appreciate technology as it is now, but knowing how it evolved throughout time. Not just start with a super smartphone, not knowing how it was to have a simple phone back then.

7. japkoslav

Posts: 1540; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

Around 35yo and with two kids here - why the hell would I wanted to do this? Kids do not appreciate their toy/device like we grown ups that used floppy discs, dial up modems, do? You do not appreciate what no electricity means, what no screen means, what is needed when you need to go from A to B without a car. Those damn kids on my LAWN! Grow up old man (mentaly) who wrote this article. There is a reason, why we as kids do not start as cave men.

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