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.

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