It’s a big question parents worry about: Should you give your child a cellphone?
If your child been nagging about getting one, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. On average, 40% of children in the United States receive their first mobile device by age 10. For many parents, this statistic is scary because there is so much responsibility that comes with children and cell phones. If you’re wondering whether you should give your child a cell phone, here are some of the pros and cons of children having cell phones.
Cell phones offer the advantage of knowing where your child is at all times, especially if you have location services and family sharing plans activated. Which you should. It’s also a
Con: Disruption & Inappropriate Behavior
When kids bring cell phones to school, it’s easy for the devices to become a distraction. Cell phones can be used to chat with other classmates, play games, or cheat on exams and tests. There’s also the growing problem of inappropriate pictures circulating among school-aged kids. While this type of behavior is one of the main concerns parents cite when deciding whether or not their child should have a cell phone, if you regularly talk to your teens about sexting and appropriate cell phone behavior you’re on the right path.
Some children report feeling safer when having a phone, but actual research on this is limited. While there are statistics that college students feel safer, do young kids also feel that way or is it an excuse to get the device?
It’s true, if your child has a cell phone, he or she can call you or emergency services if a threat ever arises. In the worst-case scenario of a school shooting, terrorist threat or kidnapping, your child’s cell phone can literally become a lifeline. But those are fear-based scenarios. While you can equip your child’s phone with extra apps to increase safety, including GPS apps that make it possible to track your child’s phone, the real question is your child’s maturity.
Cell phones aren’t cheap, and it can be a challenge for some families to afford the monthly payments (especially families with a lot of children). You can save on your monthly bill by choosing a family plan, but you may still feel the strain on your budget. If your plan includes limits on data, text messages and other services, make sure your children are aware of these limits and adhere to them. You may want to consider taking phones away for a period of time if data and messaging limits are exceeded.
That said, you don’t need to buy your child the latest iPhone — no matter how much they beg. There are some more inexpensive better options like the Kidibuzz that give them calling/texting access where you can set the limits.
Looking after an expensive piece of electronic equipment can teach your child ownership and responsibility. Your child will also need to learn to adhere to all the rules and guidelines you put in place. By giving your child agency over their phone usage, your child can experience consequences for breaking cell phone rules. And, with that, the importance of personal responsibility will be reinforced.
Con: Bullying and Other Dangers
Cyberbullying is an ugly reality for many children, but especially for those who own cell phones. It’s much easier for children with cell phones to frequently access social media than children who don’t have cell phones. While social media can become a great outlet for creative expression and interaction, it is also a hotbed for cyberbullies.
- Spreading rumors through texts or social media
- Sending sexually suggestive messages or pictures to or about others
- Posting threatening messages online
- Sending mean messages directly to others through text or email
- Taking candid, unflattering pictures of others and spreading them around the internet
- Pretending to be someone else in order to hurt someone
- Breaking into someone else’s email or social media accounts to harass them
Over half of teens and adolescents have experienced cyberbullying or participated in it themselves. This is a major concern for parents who have kids with cell phones. There are also other dangers that can come with cell phone use by kids, including unknowingly communicating with sexual predators or creating or participating in explicit content.
Making a Decision
Should you give your child a cellphone? No third party can give you that answer. The decision is a personal one that should be made by the parents or caregivers. The best idea is to weigh the pros and cons as they pertain to your specific child and make an informed decision for your situation.