It's generally accepted that most young people own
and use cell phones, but how young is too young? Unfortunately,
there is no magic number or formula that resolves the
question of when your child should be given a cell phone.
Every child is different, having both different needs
and different levels of maturity, making the "right"
age for a cell phone different for different children.
There are a few factors, however, that remain consistently
important in helping parents decide whether their child
or young teenager is ready for their own phone.
Safety is a major reason why many parents choose to
give their children their first cell phone. Emergencies
can always arise, and a phone may afford your child
an additional measure of safety in such a situation.
This fact is especially true for children who are more
likely to encounter emergency or otherwise dangerous
or situations, such as those who have certain medical
conditions, have parents who both work full-time, or
walk or take the train alone to school or camp.
In addition to being a potential aid in emergency situations,
a cell phone can help children who may frequently need
to contact their parents, such as children who participate
in after school activities and may need to call their
parents if plans change or practice ends early. If your
child needs to be able to stay in touch with you while
they're out, a cell phone may be a very useful, convenient,
and safe possession for them.
While cell phones can help keep your child safe, or
at least afford you some peace of mind, they also hold
the power to bring danger; cell phones, especially smart
phones, can grant children minimally restricted access
to things such as the Internet, camera features, and
applications. While such access can be harmless, it
could, in the wrong hands, afford the capacity for social
error or even pose a potential danger.
Knowing these risks, it is best that your child is
mature enough to understand what appropriate, acceptable
use of a mobile device is and why, and that they are
responsible enough to adhere to it before you give them
a cell phone. They should also be conscious and respectful
enough of others that they can be trusted not to engage
in bullying or otherwise hurtful or embarrassing behaviors
using their phones, especially if you are considering
giving them a smart phone. These qualities develop at
different ages in different kids, making an individual
assessment of your child important to the decision of
whether or not they are ready for a phone.
Responsibility is an important part of cell phone ownership
for a number of reasons; it impacts not only how one
uses a device, but how they treat it. At a minimum,
your children should demonstrate an ability to take
care of and not to misplace their belongings before
you allow them to have a cell phone. While this skill
isn't perfect in most children, children who are prepared
to own a phone should at least understand and respect
that they hold a level of accountability for their possessions.
A cell phone can be a very beneficial tool-- for those
who are ready to own one. If you decide that it's time
to give your child their own phone, be sure to have
a conversation with them about cell phone safety and
appropriate use. You should give even the most mature
and responsible children a clear understanding of your
expectations regarding their phones so that they can
get the most good out of their device, with the fewest
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePageSMS and
text messaging software http://www.notepage.net
and FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing
RSS feeds and podcasts http://www.feedforall.com