The Great Cellphone Debate: What’s the Right Age?
Discussion: Cellphone Use
Over at Common Sense Media (great resource!), the Editor-in-Chief asks “What’s the Right Age” for your child to have a cell phone? What do you folks think? Many homes in the hilltowns don’t get cell phone reception, so for now it might not be something that is even feasible. But what about families with older kids that travel about and need to be in touch with one another? How do you manage your child’s cell phone use? When and under what circumstances do you allow you child to have a cell phone? Post your comments below.
My daughter got her first cell phone in 7th grade (after much lobbying, whining, begging, and squabbling). Because she took public transportation home from school, my husband and I decided it was a good idea from a safety standpoint. There were no texts, the phone couldn’t take pictures, she was told how many minutes were allowed, and we did take it away from her as a punishment once (and it was very effective). Flash forward to the next child, four years her junior. He got a phone in 6th grade, mostly for the same reasons. But technology had moved on, and his came with text and photo ability, not to mention games. By then, our daughter had also become a text messaging ninja, and we’d upgraded our plan for unlimited texts (a very wise move) and replacement insurance (ditto).
But what’s the right age for kids to get cell phones, and what functions are age appropriate? This question is best answered by asking other questions: 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)?
Just remember: When you hand kids phones today, you’re giving them powerful communications and production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites. If you think your child’s technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, pay attention to the gap. We’re still the parents. And it’s our job to say “no, not yet.”