Kids and Cellphones When do you want them to have one?
My son is about to start middle school in the fall. Instead of taking the bus as he did in elementary school, he’ll be riding his bike about a mile each way. Although we haven’t had a need for it yet, my husband and I are considering getting him a cellphone.
When is the right time to get a child a cellphone? My mama-intuition tells me that as long as he’s in school or with friends whose parents I know well, he doesn’t need his own phone, but now that he’ll be responsible for himself some of the time, a phone might make him safer and keep my worries under control. Other parents, of course, have different thoughts on the matter; some kids get cellphones when they start elementary school, and others don’t get them until they can pay for them on their own. What’s reasonable will depend on each individual family. Here are a few considerations to think about when trying to decide:
- How responsible is your child with his belongings and personal care? Does he leave his backpack at school, forget his homework regularly, and need to be reminded six times to brush his teeth? Or does he keep his belongings in good shape, get his homework done neatly and rarely lose items? Having one child who fits the first description and another who fits the second, I can tell you that while my son might get a cellphone when he starts the sixth grade, my daughter won’t be ready until she’s older!
- Is he a rule-follower, or a loophole-finder? Cellphones allow your child to communicate with others outside of your watchful eyes (and ears). If you have doubts that your child will follow the rules that you set in regards to texting, photo-sharing, talking at odd hours or letting others use the phone, it might be best to hold off for another year or two.
- Is it necessary? My kids are always with me, at school or with family or friends whose parents I know. Since they’re getting older, though, they’ll have some free time away from me, and sometimes with friends whose parents I don’t know well. I feel better about knowing that my kids have a way to reach me, even if they’re on their own or if they don’t feel comfortable asking a friend’s parent to use his or her phone. Also, we recently had a situation where our child went over to a friends house and they all went out for a few hours to do errands and visit the mall and did not tell me. I tried calling their home and no one answered for hours and I was freaking out. This is one case where if my child would of had a cell phone than I would of been able to call right away and find out where they were.
- Can you afford it? There are many options when it comes to cellphones for your kids, from adding a no-frills phone to your family account, to buying them new smartphones. Be sure to look into all of the costs involved, including the fees when your child goes over the minutes, texts or data allowed on the plan.
I’m still not sure how we’re going to handle the cellphone question when it comes to our own children. I’d love to hear how readers have handled this issue, though! How old were your kids when you bought them phones, and are you happy with that decision?
My son is 3 so I haven’t even considered getting him a phone, but here’s my take on this. First off, the most important question is responsibility, and I wouldn’t get a kid one until I felt they could be responsible with it. However, that said, I would probably get them a phone with only the basics, just for calling or texting me, and it’d be extremely limited until they were older, more responsible, and could contribute to the bill. I would at first not purchase a smartphone for my son, although by the time he is old enough, they might all be smartphones. Still, I’ll do what I can to limit functionality until I am sure they won’t abuse it. I would probably make them put something like Find my Friends on it as well. Some people would call this an invasion of privacy but I don’t agree. I think it’s a safety issue, and if you can’t contact your kid, at least you can find them. If they turn location services off, you confiscate the phone. As far as exactly when my son will get a phone, we’ll have to see in 8-10 years how responsible he is. I will NEVER buy him a phone in elementary school. Kids that age are far too young in my opinion, no matter how responsible they are.