• There’s nothing more amusing (or sad depending on how you look at it) than seeing a half-pint kid talking on a cell-phone, during recess time, like s/he is trying to close on some big-time business deal. Some parents start getting pestered for a cell phone as soon as their children learn to talk. It starts off with a toy cell phone so they can mimic others and eventually it leads to asking for the real thing.

    Remember that you have options and can put restrictions on your cell phone plan

    I’ve heard the question asked many times before and have had to address it myself with my own children– what is the appropriate age for a cell phone? The simple answer is that there is no specific age because each child’s development and maturity level varies. However, there are several factors you may want to consider when making your decision:

    1. 1. Safety – Is there a concern for your child’s safety (walking home from school, etc.) which increases the need for a phone?
    2. 2. Financial– Can you afford another line or can you rotate phone access between various family members?
    3. 3. Health – There have been various articles discussing possible health risks associated with cell phone use. Since most of the research to date has been inconclusive, the question that follows is are you willing to take the risk? Some parents are more concerned since children’s bodies are still developing and could be more vulnerable.
    4. 4. Maturity – Each child is different and in this case, general standards do not apply. I’ve seen children who can handle cell phones well and adults who don’t. Each child’s maturity level and acceptance of responsibility can be measured by his/her school performance, social interactions, and overall behavior regarding to how s/he conducts him/herself. It’s not uncommon to have a younger sibling who presents as being “more responsible” than older siblings.
    5. 5. Consequences – What will you do if you find out that your child has been using his/her cell phone inappropriately (accessing adult content, texting during class time, etc.)? Or you come home to a cell phone bill that is 200-300 dollars more than you expected because of unauthorized phone use?

    The bottom line is that you should not get your child a cell phone simply because s/he asks for one. List the pros and cons and address the factors discussed above. Tailor a plan that suits your family’s needs and sit down with your child to set up clear boundaries and cell phone-use guidelines. Remember that you have options and can put restrictions on your cell phone plan by contracting your phone carrier to limit various features such as text, pre-paid accounts, internet access, etc. Providing your children with specific instructions on cell phone use for emergency purposes only or requiring them to use a wired earpiece may give you some peace of mind. None the less, don’t lose sight of your original intention for getting them a cell phone. This reinforces discipline, teaches them the importance of adhering to rules, and hopefully minimizes the possibility of it becoming a distraction or hindrance!