It used to be that kids begged their parents for a phone in their rooms. Now, parents are asked to make a different decision: whether or not to buy their kids a cell phone. How do you know when or if they're ready? What age is too young? These are just some of the questions that parents have to consider regarding a cell phone for their child. Here are some suggestions that may help, and some things to consider as you make this decision.
Age and Maturity
The first thing to consider is your child's age. Some young children have more maturity than some older ones; as a parent, you need to evaluate your own child based on his level of maturity. It's a good idea to consider the following:
- Is your child responsible with his belongings? Or does he disregard his possessions and not take care of them?
- Does your child follow directions?
- When you set boundaries, does your child respect them?
If you find your child seems to have the maturity necessary to have a cell phone, but he is still quite young, you could consider a child-friendly phone that has parental controls.
Need versus Want
It might be a good idea to sit down and evaluate whether or not there is a real need for a cell phone. Sometimes, parents decide not to purchase a cell phone for their child because the child really doesn't need it. A child may insist she needs a phone, but it may be more a question of peer conformity ("everyone else" has one).
There may be a real need for a child to carry a cell phone. Examples might include a child who visits with the other parent, spends a lot of time with friends and going out, or otherwise spends time away from parents or caregivers. In this case, a cell phone can help parents stay in touch with their child and vice versa.
There are times when a cell phone can augment a child's safety. Sources point out that the presence of a cell phone may deter an attacker; after all, many cell phones can take pictures and a child who's "wired" can call for help quickly. Some cell phones even have a GPS system installed.
On the other hand, carrying a cell phone may make your child more susceptible to cyber-bullying. Also, if your child is old enough to drive, the cell phone could pose a danger in the form of distracted driving.
Some parents may decide not to buy their child a cell phone because of the cost. For one thing, some parents may not be able to afford a cell phone for your child; for other parents, it's not a question of affording but of principle. For example, parents may choose not to buy a cell phone for their child because they'd rather the child earned it herself. In that case, your child won't be "ready" for a cell phone until she is able to earn some sort of income.
Parent Tool Kit
Example of Family Rules for Cell Phone Use Parent/Child Contract from CTIA - The Wireless Foundation
If you are considering a phone for you child, please check out the Kajeet phone service for kids and teens. It was developed by three dads and has extensive safety and money saving features with cool phones.