Has your child been nagging you about getting a cell phone? Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. On average, children in the United States receive their first mobile device by age 12. 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 it’s time to give in to your child’s cell phone demands, 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. It’s also a
Con: School Disruption
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. It’s easy to discreetly take inappropriate pictures of oneself or other students with a cell phone. Those pictures can then be posted online in a matter of seconds. This type of behavior is one of the main concerns parents cite when deciding whether or not their child should have a cell phone.
There’s no doubt that children with cell phones feel safer than those without. 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. You can equip your child’s phone with extra apps to increase safety, including GPS apps, which make it possible to find your child by tracking his or her phone.
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.
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. If your child experiences consequences for breaking cell phone usage rules, the importance of personal responsibility will be reinforced.
Con: Bullying and Other Dangers
Cyber-bullying 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 cyber bullies.
- 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 cyber bullying 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
No one else should tell you whether or not to get a cell phone for your child. The decision is a personal one that should be made by your family. Now that you’re aware of some of the pros and cons of children and cell phones, you can make an informed decision for your situation.