Ask the Educator: Cell Phones!

Ask an Educator

Question: When should I give my kid a cell phone?

This is a question I’ve received multiple times from parents in our community. And to be honest, I didn’t really know the answer to this. Like many of the people reading this, I didn’t get a cell phone until I was an adult. And the cell phone I had, as a young adult, was certainly not a smart phone. Heck, it could barely text let alone do all the amazing things phones can do now. So I decided to do some research!

And the correct answer is…well it depends on you, your child, and your family’s financial situation.

PBS has a list of considerations to keep in mind when deciding if your child is ready for a cellphone:

  • How independent are your kids?
  • Do your children “need” to be in touch for safety reasons — or social ones?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?
  • Do they really need a smart phone that is also their music device, a portable movie and game player, and portal to the Internet?
  • Do they need something that gives their location information to their friends — and maybe some strangers, too — as some of the new apps allow?
  • And do you want to add all the expense of new data plans? (Try keeping your temper when they announce that their new smart phone got dropped in the toilet…)

There are many pros to getting you child a cell phone – they become easier to reach in an emergency, they can keep in touch when spending time with friends, and it gives them ability to entertain themselves. There are also cons including being distracted during family time, concern about internet safety, and cost.

Whatever age you decide to get your child a cell phone it’s very important to talk to them about how you expect them to behave with their phone. This might include talking about cyberbullying, social media safety, and what you feel it is appropriate for them to look at on the internet.

Here are some great sources for parents:

Have questions about puberty, sexuality, health, and the teenage years? Submit your question at http://snccsyr.org/top-program/ or by emailing me directly at elewis@snccsyr.org