Although I’m not there yet with my children, there’s no denying that kids are younger and younger when getting their first cellphone. The majority of teens already have their own phone; 78 percent have a cellphone and almost half of those own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center. But it’s not uncommon to see kids in elementary school and even preschool have cellphones these days.
This begs the questions: When is the right time to give your child a mobile phone?
A lot of my friends beleive that when a child hits double digits, they are ready for a cellphone. I suppose a shiney new phone would be a pretty special 10th or 11th birthday present, but age is far from the only factor when determining if a child is ready. Maturity, responsibility and level of digital education are all critical considerations.
It’s often tough for parents to weigh the pros and cons of kid cellphone usage. It’s great to keep in touch when apart, but does it prevent face-to-face interactions and the development of important social skills? It provides peace of mind, sure, but what about Internet safety concerns? Is your child ready to navigate the complexities of the digital world?
There truly is no set age when a child should have a cellphone, and each caregiver must decide for their own family when that step is appropriate. That being said, here are a few steps every parent should take to help their children use their phones responsibly:
1. Set parental restrictions Talk to your children about staying within data limits and use parental restrictions and controls.
2. Talk about safety Discuss who children should and shouldn’t talk with and what constitutes inappropriate Internet content.
3. Talk about texts Texting and photo messaging can be innocent or threatening. Make sure your children know what is right.
4. Get real about cyber-bullying Cyber-bullying is a growing concern, and your children should know it’s okay to come to you if they are a victim or observe these behaviors among friends.
5. Determine phone times It’s best to keep phones out of bedrooms at night and away from study areas in order to negate unnecessary distractions.
6. Be clear that it’s a privilege A cellphone isn’t a right; it’s a privilege. You have the right at any time to take it away if rules are broken. Some parents even develop contracts for older kids to ensure they take cellphone use seriously.
7. Lead by example Kids learn from you. If you’re texting at the dinner table or checking email when you should be spending time with the family, don’t expect kids to do any different.