6 Things to Consider When Deciding if Your Kids Should Have a Cell Phone
Should kids have cell phones? Is there a right age for them to get one? Cell phones are handy in an emergency. When your children have a cell phone, they can call you from wherever they are, and you can check on them at any time. However, cell phones are used for much more than making and receiving calls. They are powerful mini-computers that give users unlimited access to the internet, social media, music, movies, and more.
1. Your example.
Before you consider whether or not your children are ready, first take a look at the example you set with your own phone. Are you always engaged with your phone during family time? Do you talk or text while driving? Are you spending countless hours on your social media or texting or playing games? Children learn by example, so make sure that you are using your phone in the manner that you would like your children to use theirs.
Your example also sets the groundwork for the rules you will want to establish once you decide your kids should have a cell phone. Some rule suggestions for children might be using the phone only while away from home, limited phone usage at home, or having a phone curfew.
2. Your Family Situation.
When deciding whether or not your children should have a cell phone, your family circumstances play a big part. If you have children aged 12 or younger who are always within your sight, they may not need a cell phone. However, you may work during the day, or your children may walk to and from school alone or need to be picked up after an activity. Your kids having a cell phone may give you peace of mind.
3. Kid's Maturity.
Do your children take good care of their belongings? Do they lose things? If your children lose a cell phone or damage it, you will need to replace it, especially if you are leasing it. Also, remember that a cell phone is more than just a telephone. Can your child handle the responsibility that comes along with having access to the internet? You can install internet-monitoring software onto your children’s phone. However, most children are more tech-savvy than adults when it comes to electronics and technology. Cell phones, like computers, can also be hacked, and passwords and personal information can be stolen. Not to mention that cell phones can be stolen, too. Talk to your children about keeping their cell phones in a safe place, not lending out their phones or revealing their passwords to friends or acquaintances. This is why maturity, more than age, is key to determining whether or not your kids should have a cell phone.
As already mentioned, having access to the internet is not only a big responsibility for kids, but it can also put them at risk. Have a discussion with your children about internet safety and tell them not to give out personal information to strangers online, no matter how friendly they may seem to be. Cyberbullying is also a concern. Talk with your children about what is appropriate online behavior. Teach them not to bully or gang up on others. If your children become the target of a bully or group of bullies, they should inform you or a trusted adult right away. Remind your children not to send or post comments and photos that they would be embarrassed to show to their own family. If you have a teenaged driver, talk about distracted driving and let them know it is not okay to text or talk on the phone while driving. If they need to make a call or text, instruct them to pull over.
Cell phones can become addictive, especially when waiting for text message replies or waiting to see if you got a “like” on social media. Games and apps can also consume your children’s time when they could be playing outside. Instilling rules early on to limit usage of your children’s cell phone will help them to be healthy and responsible.
6. Phone Affordability And Features.
Cell phone companies market family plans that offer unlimited calling, texting, and data, which may not fit into your budget. Shop around for plans, and consider limiting features to make it work financially for your family. Phones can also be purchased or leased. Either away, it is a smart investment to purchase insurance on your child’s cell phone in the event of loss, damage, or theft.
To save money, another option is purchasing no-contract, pre-paid cell phones. If you’re concerned about your child having access to the internet, many cell phone companies can turn off internet access, although wi-fi may still be available. Some companies do offer models that do not access wi-fi. Once internet access is turned off, your child can have a remote phone without the trappings of the internet.
So, is your child responsible enough to have a cell phone? If you’re still not sure, chances are that your child is not yet ready. Remember, there is no right age for kids to have a cell phone. It depends upon your family dynamic, as well as your child’s responsibility and maturity.