A commonly asked question in parenting classes is, “When can a child have a cell phone?” The question is often followed by, “He tells me all his friends have one.”
Not all kids have cell phones. And there’s no perfect age. It’s a privilege, not a right.
Middle school and high school kids are the typical age group using cell phones. When Mom and Dad are no longer transporting or attending every event with the child, a cell phone is a practical tool. Parents need to determine the child’s maturity level, ability to be responsible, and the need to have a cell phone.
I recommend having a child make a pitch as to why he is ready and a cell phone is necessary. Have the child do the research as to the type of phone, features, available plans (provide the name of your carrier if adding onto an existing plan), his plan to take care of and use the phone responsibly, and why he thinks he actually needs a cell phone. Ask him to include overage charges, cost of adding another line to the existing service, or insurance for lost or broken cellular devices.
Use the child’s list and add your own pros and cons. The pros could be convenience, quick contact in emergencies, security as family members are a text or call away, and the added peace with teen drivers or kids out with friends. The cons could include disrupted sleep patterns, distraction of calls while driving (same level of distraction as intoxicated drivers), possibility of texting while driving, and potential radiation hazard. Unlimited Internet access and location sharing features are potential risks too.
If the discussion goes well and you think your child is responsible, start with a basic phone. Kids don’t need Internet access, apps, or a camera on their first phone. Think of the cell phone as a tool, not a toy. Kids can work up to a smartphone.
A cell phone contract is a helpful agreement. Remind your child, every family is different. The best buddy’s rules may differ from the rules you set. That’s okay! If your child wants a phone, he needs to follow the rules. Set limits and enforce them. Here’s a list of considerations when determining safety rules for your child’s cell phone use.
Safety Rule Considerations
• Mom and Dad’s texts and calls are answered immediately.
• Texting or taking calls from unknown numbers is not allowed.
• No phone use during mealtime, while driving, or when doing homework.
• Cell phone is charged in parent’s bedroom. (Determine what time it needs to be in the charging station every night.)
• Use the safeguards on the phone. Parents can create a password to restrict the use of features on cell phones, allowing only what’s appropriate for the child.
• For teens, if social media is part of the plan, join in on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other sites. Have access to the passwords to check the child’s accounts if you have concerns. Keep open lines of communication. (Click HERE the Internet Safety post from last week.)
• Establish appropriate phone etiquette. Talk about what to photograph (and what NOT to photograph), as well as what to share with others. Photos and text messages need to be respectful. A good rule of thumb is “If you wouldn’t want Grandma to read the text or see the photo, don’t send it.”
• If the phone has app capabilities, download a Bible app. It’s great to have the Word of God in hand, literally!
As always, set a good example in how you use your cell phone. Stay off the phone while driving, during family time, and meals. Turn it off when your kids want to talk or spend time with you. It’s a tool, use it to keep track of one another, share events, and messages.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 ESV
How did you determine your child was ready to have a cell phone? What additional rules do you have for your kids in regard to cell phone use?