Hold the Phone: Should You Buy Your Kid a Cell?

This is a guest post by Derek Dasher about cell phones for kids. Although not quite in Old School Parenting style, this post on cell phones for kids still holds true to Parenting Old School’s overall theme. Please enjoy

There are several unchangeable truths in the world: the sun will rise tomorrow morning, the sky will always be blue, gas will always be too expensive, and your kids will always bug you about getting them a cell phone at the beginning of a new school year.  School is now in session and if it hasn’t happened already, the day is quickly approaching that your child is going to ask you to get them a cell phone.  Kids hate being left out of the group and, in their minds, this is bound to happen if they don’t have a cell phone like all their friends and classmates.  As technology becomes more widely available, letting your child have a cell phone might not actually be the worst thing in the world.  Let’s take a look at the argument from both sides.

Why you should buy your kid a cell phone

The most obvious reason why you should buy your kid a cell phone is because it allows you to have instant and easy communication with them.  No longer will you have to sit at home on a Friday night wondering where they wandered off to.  A simple call or text to their cell phone is all you’ll need to keep track of them (assuming that they answer).  Having a cell phone will also allow your child to contact you in case of an emergency situation.

Most parents are legitimately concerned about the type of content their child will have access to with their very own cell phone.  This is especially a concern with smartphones that offer easy access to the internet and a variety of applications (many of which cost money to download).  Parents can rest assured, however, because the major cell phone service providers in the United States provide parents with ways to limit what their children have access to on their phones.  Parents can put filters on certain types of content and applications so that inappropriate content is not available.  Usage controls, meanwhile, allow parents to regulate the amount of calls and text messages that can be used.  Location monitoring controls are also available to allow parents to know their child’s location which can be very useful in emergency situations.  It is important for parents to discuss which specific options are available with their cell phone service provider so that they can find a plan that will work best for them.

Why you shouldn’t buy your kid a cell phone

Does your child really need a cell phone?  Considering that billions of people have made it through their childhood without a cell phone, the answer is ‘probably not.’  One of the biggest concerns for parents when their kid asks for a cell phone is the price.  While a phone itself may not be too expensive (usually ranging from $0 to $200+), the monthly charge can be quite high, especially if you add on access to data and text messaging (which your son or daughter will almost definitely want).  It may be useful to discuss the price issue with your child beforehand so that they realize what a huge expense a cell phone is.  If they still insist on having one, consider having them help pay for it with money from a part-time job or by doing chores and helping around the house.

A parent’s communication with their child is absolutely critical, especially as the child reaches school age and is away from their parents for long periods everyday.  A parent’s ability to communicate with their child is already hindered by TV, videogames, the internet, and other sources. Adding a cell phone on top of all that may further serve to cause a shortage of useful and necessary communication between you and your children.  It is also worth noting that having access to their own cell phone, may lead a child to having unsavory communication with their friends or complete strangers (sharing inappropriate texts, photos, videos, etc.)

Parents have the final say

At the end of the day, you are the one that ultimately decides whether or not to buy your child a cell phone.  Before making your decision, it may be helpful to consider your child’s maturity/responsibility level, why they need the phone, and how much it will cost you.  As cell phone technology continues to improve and become more useful, the age that kids start wanting a cell phone is bound to become lower and lower.  Your kids’ friends will start getting their own phones which will put you in a situation where you have to make a decision regarding your own kids.  There are no clear cut answers as to when or if you should buy your kid their own phone. Rather, the decision should be carefully considered on a child-by-child basis.
This article was written by Derek Dasher who is a frequent contributor at Your Local Security, provider of ADT monitored security systems for families.

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