Is your kid ready for a cell phone?

With the evolution of technology, the parents of this generation are faced with a lot more difficult decisions than any other generation has in the past. And this includes many things technological, but importantly, at its core – when is your child ready for his/her own mobile phone?

The upside

There is a definite advantage to your child having a cell phone – you can reach them via call/text at any time, possibly track them using GPS. This works both ways and in case of emergency, your kid can reach you at all times too. It offers security and convenience a touch away.

The downside

There are quite a few disadvantages to consider, from health risks to exposure to social media. Mobile phones use radiation for communication and although no real risks have been established, there hasn’t been a study long enough in the contemporary world to research what the long term effects of carrying around a potent device in your pocket could be. Other things to consider are how it affects your child – peer pressure, lack of sleep (from staying up texting), dangers of talking/texting while driving, exposure to social media – most phones are touch screen devices with access to social media and online gaming and other internet based forums which makes them possible victims to bullies, predators, etc.

How to decide

This needn’t be specifically age-based as it is maturity-based. But it’s a good start to consider the amount of time your kid is spending away from adult supervision and why. If you drive them to and from school/classes, they’re under teacher supervision during after-school activities, or spend time at a friend’s house, they hardly need a phone of their own – they can be reached at whatever place they are in. Developmentally as well, you want your child to be responsible, aware of his/her belongings, careful with their stuff and only then should you consider getting them a phone, especially if you expect them to transit between classes/play by themselves.

Kids often want things from peer pressure. Be the best judge of if they need them.

Good ground rules if you’re thinking of getting your kids a phone

  • Get them a basic model with limited talk time and texts, no actual social media/internet access or camera. By all means feel free to periodically check your child’s texts, especially if there seems to be a flurry of activity. Kids are entitled to their privacy, but it’s not beyond their safety.
  • To extract best behavior, waive away mobile phone rights if you have to.
  • Set a good example yourself, by not using your phone while driving, not engaging in checking your phone every 5 seconds at the dinner table, etc.
  • Teach them appropriate social behavior, including, not taking or being in compromising photos or sharing such images even with the closest of friends, which may lead to bullying or worse.
  • Also teach them never to trust strangers, especially online and not to be present on any forum you’re unaware of.

It’s a fine line to tread. But with good communication and trust with your child, you can let your kid go the mobile way.

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