Technology is important; it allows us the opportunity to stay connected, learn new things and more. Nobody needs a constant link to technology at their fingertips 24/7, but with smart phones becoming so, let’s face it — smart and easily accessible — we have settled into just that. But do you want that for your kids? It can be difficult to decide the right time to get your child a cellphone; there are many factors to consider before giving in and getting that family plan.
1. Want or need? With seven kids of my own I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. Some of my kids expressed a strong desire or “want” for a cellphone because all of their friends have cellphones, while others of my children have expressed a “need” for one as they are involved in extra-curricular activities and events and need the easily accessible communication. A child who needs a cellphone more than wants a cellphone will be less likely to abuse their cellphone privileges. Establishing what end of the spectrum your child is on is the first step to figuring out if they’re ready for a cellphone.
2. Boundaries. Giving your child a cellphone means handing her a big responsibility, as a cellphone allows your child more freedom and space. Think about other aspects of technology first. Does your child respect the boundaries or rules you set around watching TV after school, playing video games, talking on the phone, etc.? You'll want boundaries surrounding your child’s cellphone, too. You'll have to establish when the appropriate times to use a cellphone are, what types of apps are acceptable for download, how many texts they’re allowed to send in a day and to whom; many factors come into play when a child gets a cellphone. You'll need to establish rules and boundaries that are clearly understood before your child even gets a cellphone.
3. Options are available. Contrary to what your child is likely telling you, they don’t really have to have the latest iPhone or smartphone device. There are plenty of other options available to them, and that’s important for parents to remember. Think back to the day of the original cellphone. It just made calls. Then texting was added. These two things might be all your child needs in a cellphone. I suggest starting with the most basic cellphone device, then as your child shows responsibility and independence, he can earn an upgrade and so on and so forth.
Children generally love technology, and cellphones are an important means of communication. Make sure your child is ready for the responsibility and make sure you build boundaries around this new device prior to bringing one home.