Cell Phones: Does Your Child Need a Cell Phone?

In a recent conversation with a group of moms, one shared a concern about her kids accessing inappropriate material on their cell phones. The punch line? The kids are in 3rd grade! When I asked why her child needed a phone at this age, especially in light of her concerns, she looked at me like I was from outer space.

Kids are being given cell phones at ever-younger ages, and many are even using smart phones with internet access and unlimited text messaging. Can your child handle that much exposure to the world and the responsibility? And when does the true need for communication offset the risk?

We understand that the pace of life causes families to simultaneously run in multiple directions: work meetings, soccer practice, piano lessons, etc. It’s a wonderful convenience to be able to redirect or rearrange transportation on the fly with your kids. Other parents value the safety aspect of giving their children a phone. But moms must weigh these pluses against a growing list of cons to decide if having a phone is a good thing for your child.

  1. Is it about status or need? Admit it: while we usually blame our kids for wanting what the “in crowd” has, we can also fall victim to that type of thinking. But just because the majority of her friends have something doesn’t mean that she should.
    We at iMOM highly recommend that you put off giving your child a cell phone with Internet access as long as you can.  Basically, a smartphone can be used as a distracting and addictive toy, and it opens the doorway to a hazardous world via the Internet. [How much phone does your child need?]
  2. Does the schedule demand it? For working parents whose young children need to navigate a school bus drop-off or make it to an after-school activity alone, there may be a legitimate need. Just knowing that if something goes wrong your child can reach you or another caregiver can provide great piece of mind. But if you drop your child off at school and pick them up, and they can call you from the school office if they need you in-between, a cell phone is more of a social tool than an emergency tool.
  3. Does your child handle other responsibilities well? How consistently your child obeys the rules regarding other types of technology she already has access to (internet, TV, video games) is a good indicator of how well she will respect and obey the rules you lay down for cell phone use. If you’re constantly having to police and correct your child’s use of other media, you’ll have an even greater battle on your hands with the cell phone, because she’ll be using it outside of your sight 99 percent of the time. Think long and hard before you open Pandora’s box.
  4. Do you have the backbone to limit its use and take it away? Some parents find it really difficult to take back a privilege or gift once it’s given. Only you know if you have the resolve to do what’s best for your child—despite the tears and protests—if the phone becomes a problem. If you can’t honestly say that you’ll pull the plug, and set limitations, don’t buy the phone.

Resources: How do choose the right phone and plan for your child

Cell Phone Contract


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