Often, today’s kids and young adults place more emphasis on having a phone over having a car or even a driver’s license to stay connected with friends. So when do we give them a phone? What capabilities (voice, data, and texting)? What type of phone? This post will explore some ideas to consider when making this important decision.
I believe the type of phone is simply a personal preference such iPhone or Android. More importantly, phone type can also mean new or used. I believe, like with a car there is no need for a kid to have a brand new phone until they have gained some experience. For example, phones are easily misplaced and lost. Do I want a brand new iPhone 5S lost? Perhaps as a friend of mine has done, it is better to provide a hand me down phone like a first used car. My friend is adding a line for her daughter to her family’s phone plan and giving her young daughter her very functional iPhone 3. This mother will then upgrade her handset to a new model. This was often the process that was used with cars in families in past decades and actually recommended to my friend by her phone carrier.
The service capabilities of the phone are the next issue. Texting is ever-present in our society. Does my child need that ability? Is voice sufficient? Does my kid need to be able to surf the internet at will? Regardless of your family situation, perhaps like with a kid paying a portion of car expenses our children can pay for what is beyond maintaining family communications. This additional money might be for unlimited texting or a data plan. Again, each family situation is different and what works for older kids may not be the best for younger ones.
So what age is appropriate for my child to have a phone?
Here are some ideas to considering when making this decision.
- Is there really a need? Is this a need or a want?
- What is the school’s policy about phones on campus? In the classroom?
- What is the child’s maturity level?
- Does the child have the ability not to lose things and use the phone appropriately?
- What can the family budget handle each month?
Here is a well presented article suggesting delaying your child from having a phone.
Once you determine that your kid is old enough for a phone. Now what?
In an article at http://techsavvymag.com/2012/05/21/when-should-you-buy-kids-cell-phones/, Scott Steinberg suggests the following:
- Consider buying a cell phone that dials only your contact number if and when kids need to come home alone. Prepaid cell phones can also let you limit call times and features, restrict Internet usage, prevent access to unwanted features, and monitor overall usage, and usage patterns.
- If you’re concerned about receiving unexpectedly large bills, or kids’ Internet activity, opt out of texting or endless data plans and choose a basic feature phone that forgoes bells and whistles such as downloadable apps, unlimited Web browsing and GPS tracking to limit children’s online interactions.
- Always read the manual, research and go hands-on with phones, smartphones, tablet PCs or any high-tech device that provides VoIP or digital calling functionality before you hand them over to children. It’s imperative to know the ins and outs of the cell phone you’re considering for your child before you give it to him or her – a good rule of thumb for any high-tech device for that matter.
- Consider restricting cell phone usage to only taking place in your presence until kids are mature enough to handle calls, texting and online interactions on their own.
- Be certain to monitor cell phone activity and usage, and review your bill regularly for suspicious calls, activity or communications made when mobile handsets are supposed to have been shut down, e.g. 3AM on a Tuesday night.
Per a previous post, consider Kim Komando’s digital contract for your kids to govern phone usage.
Getting a phone for a child is a relatively easy process. The decision to do so is perhaps not so easy. There is a lot to consider as once the phone has been provided it much harder to undo the situation. Much has been written about kids and phones because it is challenging a decision. In the end, we make the best decisions we can for our families. While the decisions may not conform to our kid’s peer group, they are made with the best intentions and love (sometimes the tough kind). I look forward to your comments on this topic.
PS. Here are some additional worthwhile resources: