Should Your Child Have a Cell Phone?
By Dr. Michele Borba
Should your child have a cell phone? Is your child ready for a phone? It all depends. If he has a busy after-school schedule or walks home alone, you may decide it’s worth the peace of mind to be able to reach him at all times. On the other hand, if he has a tendency to lose or break his belongings, or if you don’t have the budget for another phone bill, you may want to wait another year or two.
You can test your child’s responsibility level by letting him borrow your phone for a short time. (Kids age 8 to 10 are more likely to be using their parents’ phones than to have their own anyway.) Explain the rules (see below) up front and see how he handles this extra responsibility.
If you do decide to take the plunge, the best choice of phone is one without a camera or web access. Sign up for a plan that limits call hours and texts; if the phone does have an online function, install a safety feature that restricts the sites your child can view.
Also be sure to write out a list of rules for both of you to sign. The list should cover such issues as when and where your child can call and text, whether he can lend the phone to anyone, and what games and ringtones he can download. The phone should be shut off at bedtime, and preferably turned over to you until morning. Let your child know you’ll be checking in on his texts and calls periodically — and then do it! This will help you keep alert to signs of cyber bullying and any other issues.