I am back to student teaching. I am teaching 2nd graders until March. I have asked several of the students what they got for Christmas, and over half of the students I asked said they got an iPhone...an iPhone!! I don't even have an iPhone, which brings up the question, "when is a child really ready for a cell phone.
According to the Pew Internet Project, over 50% of children 12 and under now own a cell phone. That’s up from 18% in 2004, great, but how do you know when your child is ready for one? Is it at a certain age, or is every child different? What are the signs to look for? Below are ten ways to know that your child is ready for their first cell phone, recommended by PhoneTVInternet.com:
- Middle School – Typically, children start to want a cell phone when they reach the middle school years. Anne Collier, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, says “Children become very social creatures around middle school.” Coincidently, children also start spending more time unsupervised at that age. So this is prime time for the first cell phone.
- Supervision – As children grow up, supervision naturally decreases. While this teaches children responsibility, it can also be a stressful time for parents. Having a cell phone may be just the compromise you need.
- Responsibility – You don’t want to give a cell phone to a child who is not responsible enough to use it correctly. Limits must be set on who can be called and when. What constitutes and emergency. How many texts can be sent and when texting is appropriate. The dangers of sexting and cyberbullying must be addressed before your child is set loose with a cell phone. “Every parent has to establish rules for technology use,” Collier says.
- Self-control – Your child must be able to control themselves and follow the rules. If they can’t do simple tasks, like cleaning their rooms or taking out the trash, how do you expect them to follow your directions with cell phones? It takes a strong child to resist the lure of texting twenty-four seven.
- Money – Your child knows what it means to save. They know not to go overboard. “The average kid sends and receives over 2,000 text messages a month,” Collier says. That can add up quickly at ten cents or more per text. Your best bet is to go with an unlimited texting plan, but if that isn’t feasible, make sure your child knows the importance of saving money. And a plan on how to pay you back if they go over their time.
- Safety – Sure, it feels safer for your child to be able to contact you no matter where they are, but make sure they don’t give out their number like candy. Just like the internet, cell phones are another way a predator can get to your children without your knowledge.
- Internet – Speaking of the internet, may cell phones come equipped with internet access, allowing your child to get online without your supervision. If you feel they aren’t responsible enough for that, simply turn it off. May phone companies offer family plans that allow limits or restrictions to be placed on certain lines.
- Appropriate – Make sure your child knows when to have their cell phone on and when to turn it off, or at least silence it. Schools are notorious for taking away children’s cell phones when they go off in class, and those fines can add up quickly. Not to mention they should be listening, not texting, in class.
- Polite – It’s not only in school that cell phones should be silenced. Church, funerals, weddings, and other events should be a cell-free zone. Make sure children know when it is okay to talk and text and when the phone should be put away.
- Distraction – Cell phones can be a huge distraction. In school this annoys teachers, but on the street it could be fatal. Make sure children know to stop and get someplace safe before texting or talking. They should always be paying attention to what is around them and not the phone.
These are just ten simple ways to know if your child is ready for their first cell phone. In the end, it is your decision. Do you think your child is ready? Can they handle the responsibility and stay safe? Is your wallet ready for the next bill? If the answer to these questions is yes, then, by all means, give your kid a phone. Just make sure they are aware of the responsibilities that go along with it.