Like it or not, at some point in the future, your child is going to come to you with puppy dog eyes, asking if they can have a cell phone pretty please? They’ll give you lots of reasons why they need one, everything from “Suzie’s mom let her have one!” to “You’ll be able to call me anytime you like.” Time to strap on your parenting helmet and consider carefully if Hunter is ready for a cell phone. Not sure where to begin? Here are five big things to chew on before taking the plunge:
Need for Communication
Sometimes, you need to be in touch with your kid. Maybe they walk to and from school or take public transportation. Having a cell phone in these situations can be a lifeline for them while giving you the opportunity to check in for your own peace of mind.
Giving your child a cell phone to stay in touch with their non-custodial parent means that you get to limit your time speaking to your ex. For some of us, that’s reason enough to get them their own cell when the time is right.
Type of Phone and Features
New smartphones by Blackberry, including the BlackBerry Curve, include beefed-up parental control features. Parents have the option to limit the type of calls their child gets to just those on their contact list, as well as the ability to disable the camera so kids aren’t tempted to use their camera and video for less-than-appropriate purposes. Plus, Mom and Dad can put the stop on Internet access, text messaging and other features by creating a four-digit access code only they know. Kids, on the other hand, will get an alert that the feature is locked.
Scientific studies showing that there’s no link between brain cancer in kids and cell phones, according to WebMD.com, due to the fact that cells use radio waves, even mainstream medicine is starting to admit that more long term studies need to be performed in order to know for sure whether there is a connection. If you’re concerned about radiation, limit your child’s cell use. For teens old enough to drive, explain to them in detail the dangers of texting and driving. Then explain it again several more times after that. They are teenagers, after all. Your transformation into a broken record comes with the territory.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about parents receiving cell phone bills for thousands of dollars because their kids’ unchecked cell phone use. If you’re not interested in spending your children’s inheritance on outrageous cell phone bills, set limits. Designate certain times during the day when they can use their phone to stay in touch with you (if they’re coming to and from school or a friend’s house, for example), and when they can text with their friends. Otherwise, turn off the texting feature.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life project, 78 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have cell phones. Regardless of what the research says, just because most kids their age have cell phones doesn’t mean your children are ready. There’s no hard rule when it comes to what age you should buy your child a cell phone; no two kids are alike and some are more responsible earlier than others. Has your child proven themselves to be mature enough to follow the rules that you set around usage? If the answer is no, then perhaps now is not the right time.
Cell phones can be a powerful communication tool, or they can be a ticking time bomb of unsupervised Internet exploration. If you’re not sure how your child will wield it, perhaps it’s best to wait until you’re sure they’re ready to be a responsible cell phone user, even if that means you have to bear the mantle of World’s Meanest Mom for just a little longer. Chances are, you’re already used to the title.