Sunday, April 25, 2010

When Should I Give My Child a Cell Phone?

Do you ever cringe when you see kids walking around the mall with a cell phone attached to their ears? I know I do, but it got me wondering, when do parents give their children cell phones nowadays?

Maybe I have an inaccurate view of what is considered a normal time frame for a child to receive a cell phone. I didn’t receive my first cell phone until I got my driver’s license, and even then, my first cell phone was only programmed for calling out in case of emergencies! I didn’t truly get a fully functioning cell phone until I was a junior in college.

I see my neighbor, who is 11-years-old with a cell phone nicer than mine and wonder, "Why in the world does she have a cell phone?"

I did some research and found some interesting statistics on children and cell phone usage, such as:

- According to the Center on Media and Child Health Web site, 54 percent of 8-to 12-year-olds will have a cell phone in the next three years.

- According to, cell phones are the number one form of communication for teens.

- Teens text more than they talk; the average text rate per month is 2,272 texts.

So how do you know when your child is ready for a cell phone? Some things to consider:

- How independent is your child?

- Do they need to be in touch for safety reasons or purely social reasons?

- How responsible is your child? Do they understand the concept of minutes and the costs associated with abusing cell phones?

- Can you trust your child not to use the cell phone during class and to not use the text, photo or video functions inappropriately?

It’s a different world than the one I grew up in, so I can see where a cell phone can be a valuable safety device for kids.

Here are a few pros for giving your child a cell phone:

- A child can contact you in case of emergency at all times.

- When a child is participating in activities where the parent drops them off (such as soccer practice, etc.) the child can call his or her parents if practice ends early or late.

- During a school crisis or tragedy, your child’s cell phone may be the only means of getting in touch with you so you know they are okay.

But like I said earlier, it is a different world than the one I grew up in, and kids have to deal with cyber bullying, sexting, and embarrassing video and picture distribution on cell phones.

There are many cons for kids having cell phones, such as:

- Cell phones encourage kids to text and overspend with their cell phone plans. This can be costly to you.

- Cell phones can be a distraction from homework, school, and much needed recreation.

- Children become too reliant on technology to communication with peers. Instead of learning proper social interaction through play and personal contact, kids are relying more and more on technology to further their relationships with friends.

- Cell phones allow your children a portal to the Internet, making it harder to keep tabs on what Web sites your child is visiting and who is contacting your children.

- Humiliating texts, photos, and videos captured on phones can be sent instantly or uploaded to Web sites.

There is so much information to process when trying to decide when your child needs a cell phone. I have come to the conclusion it is dependent upon your family’s situation. If you work away from the home, and if your child will be home alone or elsewhere without parental supervision, then a cell phone may be appropriate for a younger child. However, for me and my family’s situation, I think I am going to stick to when my child gets her driver’s license. Worked for me, right? Thankfully, I have many, many years before I even need to ponder this decision! And who knows that the factors will be by then?

Check out these articles about cell phone usage and children for more facts and figures.

Where do you stand when it comes to the great cell phone debate?

When did you give your child a cell phone? Post it in the comments section below.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Can I Help My Child Deal with a Bully?

In light of the recent Phoebe Prince bully case highlighted on the cover of this week’s People magazine, many of our P&H Kids blog readers may be wondering, “How can I help my child deal with a bully?” Unfortunately, in national surveys, most kids and teenagers say that bullying occurs at their school, so how can we help out kids deal with these unsettling situations?

We certainly don’t have all the answers but here are a few tips and resources on how to help your child deal with bullies at school.

• Make it clear that it is NOT your child’s fault they are being bullied.

• Never tell your child to ignore the bullying because this makes it seem insignificant to you. To your child, being bullied may affect every aspect of their days so you don’t want it to seem unimportant. Offer comfort and support if your child tells you they feel bullied by a peer.

• Praise your child for telling you they have been bullied. This takes a lot of courage.

• Encourage your child to tell an adult they trust when the bullying occurs. Reiterate that this is not “telling” on the bully. Tell your child they have a right to feel safe at school and by getting help, they can make the bullying stop.

• Learn as much as you can about the bullying incidents. Ask who was involved, what happened, were there any other adults around to witness the bullying, and how often it occurs. The more you know, the more you can help.

• Do not encourage retaliation towards bullies. This will usually result in your child being disciplined at school as well.

• As a parent, it is important to keep your anger in check when your child is being bullied. Be as rational as possible and stick to the facts of the bullying incident. Do not act on emotion.

• Work with your child’s school to see what policies are in place with bullying issues at school.

• Encourage your child to get together with friends that build up their confidence and that are good influences.

Here are some resources for helping your child deal with bullies.

MSN ‘s Kids Health: Helping Kids Deal with Bullies


My Child’s Safety

Stop Bullying Now

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Car Safety- When Can Your Child Ride in the Front Seat of a Car

A sad but true fact: Car crashes are the number one cause of death and serious injury for children. To keep our kids as safe as possible in cars, have them ride in the backseat of the car for as long as possible. Why you ask? Riding in the front simply isn’t as safe as riding in the back.

According to, children 12 and under should ride in the backseat of a car, but many passenger safety organizations recommend going even further by keeping your child in the backseat until your child is ready to get their drivers license.

Check out these statistics from BabyCenter about car safety:

- Buckling a child into the backseat instead of the front reduces by a third his risk of death in a collision.

- In a head-on crash (the most common and deadly type of collision), a child in the front seat is more likely to be thrown into your car's dashboard or through the windshield.

- Even if your child is properly buckled in, he's at much greater risk for being harmed by objects intruding into the car in the front than in the back.

- In cars with passenger air bags (which includes most newer models), the air bags deploy with such force that they can cause severe head and neck injuries to a child. Nationwide, more than a hundred children have been killed by air bags in recent years, and many of these deaths were in slow-speed collisions that should have been minor.

Not convinced yet? Read this editorial on MSN. I don’t know about you, but my kids will stay in the back for years and years to come.