AT&T Helps Parents Navigate Kids' Smartphone Quandaries

Back-to-school shopping season is here for elementary school students. So it’s time for parents to get their kids school supplies, new clothes -- and a smartphone?

Mobile service provider AT&T points out that, last year, as hybrid learning became entrenched, there was a 37% year-over-year increase in back-to-school tech shopping, per Deloitte Insights.

This fits right in with another study, this one done in May by OnePoll for AT&T subsidiary Cricket Wireless, which found that the average age today’s kids get their first cell phone is 10 years old. In contrast, the average age those kids’ parents got their first personal tech -- in the form of a desktop or laptop computer -- was 11 years old.

So how can parents determine if and when their children should get a phone?

AT&T has just teamed with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to create an online tool that asks 10 questions to assess if kids are ready for the responsibilities of their own cell phone.

Once the questionnaire is completed, parents receive a score: either “Ready Zone,” “Almost Ready Zone” or “Not Yet Ready Zone.” The score determines the next steps. Those in the “Ready Zone,” for example, get directed to such resources as activating parental control settings on devices, accessing tips to help their child have a safe and positive experience, and creating a Family Media Plan.

Speaking of the latter, AT&T has also worked with AAP to add new features to the latter’s six-year-old Family Media Plan, designed to help parents find ways to balance screen time with other activities, set boundaries for accessing content, deal with cyberbullying, and develop age-appropriate critical thinking and digital literacy.

The AT&T/AAP partnership makes sense because both parties were already “committed to helping families use technology safely and responsibly” as well as “working to encourage healthy digital habits,” Gwen Oldham, AT&T’s director, corporate social responsibility, told Marketing Daily. “This creates a powerful collaboration with the potential to reach parents and families with expert digital parenting advice at scale.”

AT&T and AAP are both working to make sure that parents are made aware of the tools.

AT&T’s efforts include promoting the tools on its website in customer communications, and on social media. AAP is also reaching out to pediatricians.

AT&T said its team-up with AAP is part of its Connected Learning initiative, which began as part of the firm’s $2 billion commitment from 2021 to 2023 to address the digital divide through digital literacy tools, education resources, broadband technology, low-cost internet service, computers, and more.

Indeed, John Stankey, AT&T chief executive officer, lauded the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program on Thursday as the now WarnerMedia-free company announced its second quarter financial results.

One highlight of the earnings report was ATT adding more than 800,000 postpaid phone customers, making it the best second quarter in that regard in more than a decade. This came about despite what Stankey called a “much more tempered” approach to promotional activities than competitors like T-Mobile and Verizon.

Referring to the recent launch of plans that don’t include the former WarnerMedia’s HBO, Stankey said that AT&T’s own promotional activities during the quarter had focused successfully on “more generous hot spots and better roaming” over entertainment offerings. Nonetheless, he had high praise for the inclusion of Warner Bros. Discovery’ HBO Max in plans, saying “entertainment as part of a wireless bundle will be around for a period of time."

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