Quick – think of someone you know who doesn’t own a cellphone. Take a few more seconds. Anyone come to mind?
Everyone has a cell phone nowadays, kids and young adults included. From games, to organizing our lives, to surfing the internet and watching movies, there’s nothing our cell phones can’t do. So it comes as no surprise that kids and teenagers can’t live without them – or so they say. But as a parent, you may question whether your child is ready for a phone. If you survived without one as a kid, why can’t they?
The reality is, times have changed and the prevalence of cell phones does actually make existing without one harder and harder every day. Businesses and homes alike are quickly dropping landlines in exchange for cells and phone booths are already a thing of the past.
So, how do you know if your child is ready for their own cell phone? If you aren’t sure, ask yourself the following questions – the answers may surprise you.
1. Do they really need a phone?
Every family’s situation is different. One family may feel their children aren’t ready for cell phones, but you might see a need for your child to have one. Let’s say your middle schooler has after-school activities or walks home from school. Since you’re at work and can’t be with them, giving your children a phone might seem like a no-brainer.
This is an excellent way to stay in touch with them during their afternoon activities, especially if you need to coordinate pick ups after school. A phone in their hands can also provide peace of mind since they can notify you of any emergency.
On the other hand, if your child goes from home, to the bus stop, to school and then to an after-school program (and he or she is always in the presence of an adult) you may decide a cell phone isn’t necessary yet. If there is a stay-at-home parent, maybe there is less urgency to maintain contact.
Think about your situation and what feel right for your family.
2. Is your child responsible with their possessions?
Even if you don’t plan on buying an expensive cell phone, consider how your children care for their belongings before getting them a cell phone. Keeping up with a cell phone is a big responsibility – even adults drop their phones, or get them stolen or broken. And since cell phones are hot commodities, your child should understand the importance of keeping their phone safe from theft and damage.
If your son or daughter constantly loses their book bags, wallets, lunchboxes and other belongings, there’s a good chance he or she will misplace a cell phone, as well.
3. Does your child understand how to use cell phones safely?
All smartphones include internet access. Even with parental controls to monitor and limit how your child uses the phone and internet, your child could still stumble into dangerous territory. Be certain that they know what’s OK to use and what isn’t. Set ground rules and be confident that your child will follow them at all times.
They should understand the types of websites to avoid and they should get into a routine of asking permission before downloading music or apps. It’s also important that children know what they should and shouldn’t share with their friends online and through text messages. Without guidance, a cell phone can be a dangerous tool in a young person’s hands.
4. Are you ready?
It might not be a question of your child’s readiness, but rather, of your own.
Minors can’t sign contracts, so at the end of the day, you’re responsible for your child’s cell phone and their monthly bill. It’s a new monthly expense to take on, and if you don’t have an unlimited plan, your child could overwhelm you with overage fees. Are you prepared for this possibility?
Do you have the time and energy to enforce your ground rules? Some families have a “no cell phone” policy during dinner or they prohibit the use of cell phones after a certain hour. If you give your child a cell phone, you must consistently monitor their usage and behavior to ensure they don’t abuse this privilege.
Is your child ready for a cell phone? The answer depends on the individual child and your family’s situation. Gauge whether your child is mature and responsible for their own device and get ready to hand them one more nugget of independence. They grow up fast!