How to Tell if your Child is Ready for a Cell Phone
How do you know if it is time for your child to own a cell phone? There is no fixed or one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some parents may choose to give their child a cell phone as early as age 9 or ten. Others may choose to wait until their teenage years. A 2019 studyshowed that 53% of children in the United States own cell phones at age 11.
Parents give their kids cell phones for different reasons. Some parents feel a cell phone is necessary to stay connected with their kids, while others use phones to keep their children entertained.
You may consider giving your children cell phones if they stay home alone, walk home alone after school, walk to friends’ houses alone, or attend after-school activities. A cell phone is necessary for emergencies and last-minute pick-up requests.
Is your child responsible enough to own a cell phone?
While giving kids cell phones may be helpful for safety reasons, there are also risks. This is when you need to sit down with your child and tell him the implications and responsibilities of owning a cell phone. Young children with cell phones could give out information to the wrong people. Make your child aware and be proactive about protecting their personal data.
While there are many benefits to owning a cell phone, there are also drawbacks.
Pros of giving your child a cell phone
-Safety and Security: A cellphone helps you reach your child when you need to, and they can contact you anytime. For example, if something comes up and you cannot pick up your child from school at the agreed time, you can tell them immediately and make alternative plans. Tracking apps will also help you monitor where your kids are, especially if they get lost.
-Educational purposes: In today’s digital world, cell phones play an important role in giving your children access to educational tools and opportunities. Some apps, videos, and interactive games can help your child learn. The pandemic has brought a dramatic shift in learning for many kids. Home-schooling and tutoring can be made more convenient with the use of cell phones.
-Social benefits: Children’s mobile phones help keep them in the loop and stay connected with their classmates and friends.
-Entertainment: Used properly, cell phones provide kids entertainment like music, games, and videos. Cell phones can keep a child entertained, for example, on long road trips.
Cons of kids and cell phones
-Exposure to the Internet: Cell phones can expose your children to the dark side of the internet. It gives them access to inappropriate content like pornography, violence, etc. You may be able to restrict access, but kids are more innovative, and they can frequently find ways to bypass restrictions.
-Distraction: Your child may become addicted to his cell phone, spending more time playing than studying or communicating with friends. They may lack focus and attention if they get too attached to their cell phone. Have you ever seen those kids on their phones while crossing the road? Lack of concentration could lead to accidents.
-Cost: Cell phones are expensive, and additional phone units will increase your phone plans. There is also the chance of your child’s phone getting broken or lost. If you don’t monitor their usage, you could have enormous phone bills if they get the freedom to make frequent calls and download paid apps.
-Inappropriate usage: Your children may misuse their phones by taking inappropriate videos or photos and uploading them to social media or sending them to friends.
-Sleep deprivation: Kids with cell phones are tempted to stay awake late into the night on the internet, texting with friends, or playing games.Tweens and teens need as much as 9 to 11 hours of sleep daily.
-Social isolation: One of the drawbacks of cellphone use in kids is that they can become so addicted to their cell phones that they become socially isolated from friends and family. This can lead to mental health issues down the road.
-Decreased bonding time: Modern families nowadays spend less and less time together. They may be in the same place, but each one is absorbed in their cell phones.
Encourage dependency: If your child calls and asks you about everything, the cellphone may foster dependency, and they will not learn how to make decisions independently.
Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks of giving your kids cell phones? Whether your child is ready for a cell phone or not is a tough decision for parents. Take note if they have shown responsibility in various ways, for example, by doing their assigned household chores or finishing homework on time.
Sit down with them and create guidelines for cell phone use. If they are ready and willing to agree to those guidelines, they are probably prepared for their own cell phones. Only you can judge if your kids are mature enough to own cell phones.
Moms Weigh In
My son got a disconnected iPhone at 8. It could call 911, text through Wi-Fi and he mostly used it for streaming music. We went to a regular iPhone at about 11. He’s 16 now, never had issues.
My daughter got her first phone right before the start of 7th grade when she was 11 years old. My hand was forced because she had a week-long leadership conference in Washington DC and I needed to be able to get in contact with her. The only thing I wish I had done differently is that when she was home and not at school or an extracurricular activity that I would have taken the phone to lessen her use of games and such. My son was 13 before he got his because that is when he started all of his extracurricular activities and I felt that he was mature enough not to misplace it. I feel there isn’t any magic number here. It is really about the kid themselves and what type of activities they are in where a phone would be useful.
My children can have a cell phone when they can pay for it. When they can stay home alone there will be a “home” cell phone but it’s not for a child to keep and carry.
My 2 oldest kids (now 14 and 16) got phones when they were 10 and 12 because they would go to their dads and I wanted a sure way to get ahold of them. My 8-year-old now has my old phone but only works on WiFi for games and such when we’re home. We just moved from California and let me tell you electronics saved my sanity on a 3-day drive with 4 kids by myself because hubby was driving the U-haul.