Many people have a cell phone. Whether you prefer Apple or Samsung or any other carrier, it’s likely that your phone is always close by. But what about your child? Do they need one, too? In today's day and age, the pressure is on to place a phone in your child's hand way before you both may be ready. So, is there an ideal age for your child to have a phone? While the decision is obviously up to the parent, there are several key points to consider before opening that door.
Children of today are growing up in a much more technologically savvy—and dependent—world than their parents. Even if you had a phone as a teenager, you probably used it just to make phone calls. Today, a cell phone isn’t just a phone—it’s a mobile device that connects the user to the world. From texting, watching movies, and listening to music to browsing the internet and checking your social media accounts, a phone does so much more than make calls. However, having a phone may come with a price that extends way beyond your monthly bill.
According to a 2016 study by Central Influence, a consumer research company, the average age that a child receives their first phone is 10.3 years old. The device is primarily used to text other people and go on the internet. Many parents consider the purchase of a phone for their child as a right of passage as they move on from elementary school to middle school. Others value the cell phone as a dependable resource to maintain communication with their child while they are at work or if their child is visiting a friend or relative. So many factors may play into the decision to purchase a phone for a child.
So, when should my kid get a cell phone?
Owning a phone bears a great deal of responsibility on part of parent and child. To assure your child's health and safety, especially, monitoring usuage is important. Who and what they are texting, what types of photos are being shared, types of websites visited, etc. And then there's social media to think about and Apps! Furthermore, there are several studies that raise health concerns with children and their phone use.
Before purchasing your child a cell phone, ask yourself the following:
- Am I able to establish enforcable rules for my child's phone use?
- Am I aware of security/safety issues that may come with using a cell phone?
- Do I have the time to monitor my child's phone use?
- Do they actually need a phone? Is it required for school classes, for example?
- Is my child a good student? Is the phone a privilege they have earned?
- Will having a cell phone deter my child from fulfilling her responsibilities?
- Is my child careless with their belongings? Are they always losing or breaking things?
- Does my child understand the importance of not sharing personal information on the internet?
- Would my child follow the data plan or go over the limits? Will my plan allow me to set restrictions?
- Will having a phone benefit my child? For example, can it be used for research for school assignments, etc.?
- Does my child have the social maturity to carry on individual text conversations?
Your answers may help you come to the conclusion that is best for your family.
As reported by Common Sense, a nonprofit organization that provides families with information on technology-related issues, last year, 59 percent of parents who responded to a survey said they thought that their teenage children were addicted to their phones. Many believed that their children got so distracted by their phones at times that it affected the family’s time together. That being said, it is never too late to set new boundaries for phone usage.
If you've decided that your child is mature enough to have a cell phone, a family discussion prior to giving your child the phone could prove invaluable. Set ground rules for use. For example, you could require that all phones be left in another room during family dinners. No phone until homework is complete, etc. You may even want to think about restricting phone usage after a specific time since some kids use their phones late into the night, which adversely impacts their sleep. If left unchecked, a child's attachment to the device could have long-lasting effects on their health. Consider where there phones will be charged at night and other ways to reduce the effects of not only over-stimulation but radiation, too.
Before committing to purchasing a phone for your child, do your own homework and research. Discuss with your partner and your child, too, to decide if you are all ready for the responsibility of owning and properly using a cell phone.