It seems that kids these days are getting cell phones at younger ages every year. While this convenience is almost a necessity for adults, many parents are unsure that their child is old enough for the responsibility of having a cell phone. Before making the decision to get your child their first phone, there are some things you need to consider.
Does your child need a cell phone?
The answer to this question will vary between families and between individual children. A teenager who is involved with extracurricular activities or part time work may genuinely benefit from a cell phone for safety reasons and to arrange for pickup times with you. But a third grader who is chauffeured and chaperoned constantly by you will not have this need.
Many children begin asking for a phone because one of their friends has one. If they don’t really need it, you should consider denying their request, as there is more to owning a cell phone than simply communicating with you or their friends.
Is your child responsible enough to handle the responsibility of having a cell phone?
This responsibility goes beyond knowing not to use their phone in class, although this is an important consideration. You also need to make sure they understand the concept of data plans and limits to what they can download. A younger child with no real concept of money will be more likely to ignore how much data they are using, causing your monthly bill to skyrocket.
The same could be said for some teenagers, so it is up to you to determine if your child is mature enough to understand these things. It might even be best to hold off on getting your child a cell phone until they can contribute some of their own earnings towards the bill, even if it’s just a fraction of the cost. This way, they understand the costs associated with the device and have a personal stake in ensuring that they don’t exceed their monthly data limits.
In addition, if your child is always losing his or her belongings, you probably don’t want them carrying around a $500+ smart phone.
Can your child be safe with a cell phone?
This goes along with responsibility, but is even more critical. Can you trust your teenager not to text or talk while driving? Can your child be wary of who they give their number to, and be cautious when posting their whereabouts on social media apps? Do they understand the dangers of sexting and how much easier cyberbullying can be when you always have a connected device with you?
These are all things you should consider before getting your child a cell phone, as many of these safety concerns could be a matter of life and death.
There is really no age at which a child is definitively ready to have a cell phone of their own. To determine if your child is ready, you need to think beyond age and consider these points. And if your child’s request for a cell phone is only about “want” and not about “need,” then the best option may be for you to wait until they are older.