Should Children and Teens Have Cell Phones? Pros and Cons
If you are deciding whether or not to get your child a cell phone, you are not alone, many parents are now faced with this same question. While it may be easy to choose a specific cell phone, the more difficult choice is timing; what is the best age for your son or daughter to be given their first cell phone? There is a lot to consider for parents. One consideration is the social pressure that kids and teens can feel when many other friends and peers already have a cell phone. Some parents feel that the safety benefit of having a phone is the primary deciding factor, while others disagree and feel that it is best to wait until their child is older and more mature. Factors like home environment and especially varying levels of maturity, make it impossible to prescribe a specific age for when your child may be ready.
The following are some good reasons why you should get your child a cell phone:
One reason that many parents claim that they are purchasing a cell phone for their child is safety. These parents feel that if the child was kidnapped or in danger, that having a cell phone could offer the child a way out. This scenario would assume that the child always had their cell phone and charged.
2. Peace of Mind
The idea of being able to check on their child if the child was away from home is another motivator for parents to purchase a cell phone for their child. Knowing where their child is offers peace of mind.
3. Communicating with Friends
Keeping in touch with friends is a big reason that children want cell phones. Having a cell phone will allow them to easily keep connected with their social circle of friends, and they like the feeling of independence that a cell phone gives. Parents also feel that giving their child a cell phone will allow their child to “fit in”, to build and continue friendships.
Giving a child a cell phone can be a great choice when considering things like safety and peace of mind for the parents as well as allowing their child to be in communication with their friends.
There are also many downsides to giving a child a cell phone:
Knowing kids, there is no guarantee that the child would have the phone and that it would be usable, but just the thought of possibly of avoiding danger is enough to make parents decide to buy a cell phone for their child.
1. Failing to offer Safety – False sense of security
While many parents feel that the deciding factor over whether or not to purchase a cell phone for their child is safety, or peace of mind, it is important to realize that many times cell phones don’t deliver. Here are some reasons that a cell phone might not provide kids with more safety:
Reasons that cell phones don’t always live up to their safety reputations:
- Kids forget to charge the cell phone
- Kids forget to take the cell phone with them
- Kids loose the cell phone altogether
- Cell phone signals might not work
- Kids don’t always answer their phone
If parents are relying on their child’s cell phone in the case of an emergency, it would be best to have a back-up plan, cell phones aren’t always reliable and kids aren’t always responsible with their phones. Adults forget to charge their phones and sometimes lose them as well, so it would follow that children would have similar issues.
2. Addictive Factor
Cell phones, and especially smart phones, are very addictive; games and social media sites are particularly problematic and will likely lead to the child tuning out of ‘real life’ experiences. For this reason many parents choose the most basic phone available and block any data so the phone is only used for its intended purpose, which is communication. Smart phones are computers with internet access; if you hand your child a smart phone you are handing them a world of options, but most children lack the maturity to navigate this world safely.
3. Getting a good night’s sleep
Because cell phones can be so addictive children are staying late at night on these devices and consequently missing out on their needed sleep. Many parents set rules and limitations but they can be hard to enforce when a child is in possession of a cell phone.
4. Monitoring a child’s cell phone use can become a 24/7 job.
5. Progression of cell phones use
Over time, a child’s cell phone usage will likely increase. While at first just having a phone to communicate with seemed good enough, the child may subsequently want a more sophisticated and expensive smart phone. Once the child has experienced use of a 'smart' phone, or is that child's peer groups has smart phones, the decision becomes more challenging.
The compromise that some parents resort to is limiting cell phone use such as one hour per day, but this solution comes with its own issues. Returning a cell phone on time, within agreed limits, can become a problematic situation for all involved, often leading to friction and conflict.
If you are considering getting your child a cell phone it is wise to really consider the pros and cons, even to include your child in your decision making regarding your concerns and possible rules and restrictions.
Many parents point to safety as the deciding factor but cell phones don’t always deliver. Having a phone and “fitting in” with their peers is important, but if the child begins to show signs of missing sleep, falling behind in schoolwork or becoming addicted, it might be time to remove the privilege either temporarily or for an extended period of time until a future date.
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© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway
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