For most adults, cell phones have become a modern-day necessity. We can, of course, make phone calls, but our phones will also manage our calendars, allow us to engage in social media, take photos and even give us driving directions to any place we’d like to go. You’ve probably thought about giving your child a cell phone of their own for a variety of reasons. Here are some additional considerations as you contemplate this decision.
Most parents believe that the age of 12 is appropriate for giving a child their first cell phone. However, studies show that the age is trending downward. Cell phones are a common sign in classrooms as early as the 3rd grade. To determine whether your child is old enough for a cell phone, look beyond the number and be sure to factor in maturity, personal responsibility, safety needs and other factors.
Maturity and Personal Responsibility
Of course, a prerequisite to owning a cell phone is knowing how to use it properly. Is your child able to answer or initiate phone calls and do they know the numbers for key contacts as well as how to dial 911? Do your children understand why having access to a telephone (cellular or land line) is important? Have discussions with your child about having a phone, this will give you a good indication of whether they’re ready for that responsibility.
Parents who report giving a cell phone to their kids at an early age typically cite safety as the primary consideration. Many kids are coming home to empty houses and spending a substantial time alone before a parent comes home. Having a cell phone serves as a check-in for parents to know when they’re child is home safely and also that they can be reached if there’s a problem. Of course, this can be achieved with a land line phone as well, though the ability to make or receive calls in transit is another issue. Many kids in large metropolitan areas use public transportation to get to and from school each day.
Your child will have plenty of time with a cell phone when they’re older. It’s important at an early age to teach them that the cell phone isn’t purely for socializing with friends. Rather, it’s an important tool for staying in contact with you – especially in an emergency. To this end, it may be challenging to limit their calls to essential ones if they have a phone. It’s too tempting to call friends, play games or take photos. Consider investing in a cell phone programmed to only call one or two specific phone numbers. That way you can ensure the will be talking to a responsible adult if they need to reach you.
Making the decision to get your child a cell phone is an important one that requires thoughtful consideration. By determining your child’s need for a phone and discussing expectations and responsibilities, you’ll be able to determine if the time is right for your child to own a cell phone of their own.