Tue. Feb 25th, 2020

Parenting Tips

From Parenting Coach Dr. Clarity

When do you Get your Child a Cell Phone?

8 min read
cell phone with game on screen

There are many milestones that kids meet as they grow up. Parents get excited when their children learn to do things that make them more independent. Things like learning to read and riding a bike are big milestones. There are some milestones, however, that depend completely on decisions made by parents. In a culture where everything depends on technology, parents have a lot of pressure on them to make big purchases. Video games, computers, and cell phones are a part of daily life in many households. Parents need to consider their lifestyle, kid’s maturity, and several other factors before they provide cell phones to their kids.

Lifestyle

Some families use their phones more than others. If parents need their phone constantly for work, kids may not be able to use the phone to call friends or play a game. Sometimes sharing a phone works fine if one parent gives kids a turn occasionally. If your home is free of excessive electronics and you want to keep it that way, get a landline. This way you have something to use for emergency calls, and you can easily minimize the temptation of a cell phone.

child holding mobile tablet

Other families fully embrace modern technology and have every gadget possible in the home. If you allow kids on your phones regularly, it is not a huge change to get them their own. There are plenty of ways to add parental restrictions and you can set your own time limits.

Personal Preferences

Many parents still tell their kids about the “good old days” when cell phones weren’t around. Parents often withhold cell phones to let kids simply be kids. This is a very personal choice and depends a lot on how much contact you want with your kids when they are out and about. You may also prefer to let your children’s mind develop with minimal electronics for as long as possible.

Parents are also beginning to realize that kids need the skills to function in today’s world. Therefore, they introduce cell phones and other electronics early, so their children are comfortable using them. You may also like to have open communication with your children throughout the long school day.

Working Parents

Regardless of preferences, working parents often need to implement extra safety measures. Many children get off the bus after school and come home to an empty house. A landline only allows them to call you once they are home. Some bus stops are a few streets away from home. A cell phone allows you to find out when your child gets on or off the school bus. Working parents may also leave the house before their children head to school. You can send quick text reminders to lock doors with a cell phone, for example. It is not always feasible to make a phone call from work. Texting is extremely helpful when you must be away from your child for many hours.

Age and Maturity

Every child matures at a different pace. Parents often set a certain age for when they plan to get a cell phone for their children. This is unrealistic in many cases. You may have a younger child that is extremely responsible and an older one that is constantly breaking things. Even if your child reaches the magic age, it can get expensive to repeatedly replace broken phones. Instead of setting an age restriction, present a list of maturity requirements that must to meet. Kids can work towards the goals and earn their phone. You can insist that they keep up with household chores, clean up without you asking, or respect other’s things.

Necessity

There are times when a cell phone is simply a necessity. You may not be able to stick to your preconceived timeline if you must have a way to contact your child. Divorced parents often like to have a way to contact their child directly when they are visiting the other parent. A cell phone can bring peace of mind in this situation. There are phones meant for very young children that can be set to only call certain numbers. You do not have to provide kids with a smartphone and data.

Schools often use cell phones in the classroom now. Check with your child’s teacher to see if they plan to use them during the school year. Many kids also use their phones to look up information for assignments. A smartphone is a good research tool when used properly. Some apps also help kids keep up with schoolwork, group projects, and schedules.

Safety

Safety is the main reason many parents provide a cell phone to their young children. Unfortunately, it is not safe to let kids roam around the neighborhood all day like in the past. A cell phone ensures that they can call home if there is trouble. A cell phone gives kids a little more independence. They can ride their bikes to the park, go to the pool, or visit nearby friends without a parent following them around. You can also put trackers on the phone, so you know exactly where they are.

Teens should have a cell phone once they begin working or driving. They need to be able to call for help if they become stranded or have a wreck. Sometimes work schedules change or teenagers decide to spend some time with a friend after work. You need to know where they are. Even if your child walks dogs or mows lawns, they may be far enough away to need a cell phone.

Accountability

Even if you provide a cell phone out of necessity, your child should still consider it a privilege. Kids should be accountable for taking care of this expensive item. If they are eager to own a cell phone, they may begin to show more maturity. If they are young, give them special chores to earn money for the phone. They can be responsible for a portion of the bill. Expect a working teenager to  pay a larger amount, or the entire bill. Provide a used or inexpensive phone until they work for something nicer.

They must also understand the expense of a broken or lost phone. You can start teaching them accountability with other items they own to prepare them for getting a cell phone. Wait until they are ready to take care of it properly and work to help pay for it.

Responsibility

Some kids naturally do well with responsibilities. You can often tell early on how children are going to handle school, chores, and their first job. You may have a toddler that insists on an organized closet and always wants to help, for example. Owning any electronic device is a responsibility. Kids need to learn how to care for cell phones, so they do not break. They also need to learn how to self-regulate their screen time. If your child has minimal self-control with television and video games, you may want to wait a bit before introducing a cell phone. They need to understand the importance of limiting screen time for their own health.

You can purchase a protective case and screen cover; however, your child should take care of the phone properly. Make sure they are ready to be careful with the device. Ask them where they plan to keep the phone when they go to school and watch how they treat the phone. They should understand it is not for their friends to play with, as well. When you are sure they understand proper care of a phone, you can consider purchasing one.

Restrictions

Restrictions are a necessity when a young child has a phone. This can help parents feel more comfortable with cell phone use. Research different parental control options before you decide to give your child a phone. You may change your mind about phones for kids if you have control over the apps and contacts. It can be helpful to give young children a phone with several limitations that can be removed as they get older. If they begin to ignore your rules, take the phone until they show more respect.

Teenagers do not have to have full use of their phone, either. You are in control of cell phone use in your house. Keep a basket in your room for kids to put their phones in at bedtime. This ensures that teens are not up all night on their cell phone. You can also require that phones stay unlocked so you can check them occasionally. Young kids with an emergency phone do not need a data subscription. Let them use the internet at home for games or online activities. You can turn the internet off or change the password if you want to end their screen time.

Personality and Special Needs

Some kids need a phone more than others. If you have a child with special needs, a cell phone can help you stay in touch. Kids with anxiety, for example, should be able to call you when they are having a difficult time. Perhaps you simply have a shy child that does not speak up when they need help. They may not speak up while at a friend’s house or at school. Children like this may need a way to communicate if they need something. It takes time to work through fears and social issues. A cell phone can help children with these problems stay calm. Children with health issues may need to call home or call for emergency help, as well. Kids with things like diabetes and severe allergies may need help immediately at times. It is best to evaluate each child and their personal struggles when deciding on cell phone use.

Living Arrangements and Location

As discussed earlier, working parents may need to introduce cell phones earlier. Think about your living arrangements when making the choice. If one parent stays home and is always with the child, a cell phone can wait. Kids that don’t take school buses or go to play dates on their own, have little need for their own phone. When kids go to more activities without you, it is time to start preparing them to own a phone.

Kids that live in big cities are often exposed to more dangerous situations. They may ride the subway or bus to get around town, for example. Even if parents are with them, they are more likely to become separated in crowds. A cell phone is a quick and easy way to contact a child while at the mall, train station, or at a concert. Consider the safety of your geographical location and daily activities, as well.

Cell phones are a necessity in modern times. Most of us wonder how we ever survived our childhood without one. In the past, children went out to play all day without talking to their parents. It is still a personal decision, however, to give your child a cell phone. They need to be ready for the responsibility and willing to earn it. You can prepare kids at a young age if the phone is a necessity, or you can wait until they show proper maturity. It is best to consider the personality of each of your children when making this big purchase. Some kids are ready much earlier than others. With parental restrictions, good preparation, and accountability, you can feel confident about introducing a cell phone.

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