When should I get my child a phone is a question that I am often asked and one that I’ve struggled with myself when it comes to my own kid. It’s confusing. There are lots of expert opinions, and they don’t always agree.
Some say to go all in and get a smart phone in middle school, when kids are still at least somewhat willing to listen to parents and parents retain more control than they do during the high school years.
Others say that while a basic phone may be okay, giving your tween a smart phone is the equivalent of giving them unrestricted access to everything on the internet, and that is how the bus to middle school turns into a porn party.
A third camp opposes phones all together for tweens.
Why can’t there be a clear, easy answer? WHY?!?!? Well, actually, because each kid is unique and each family is different.
A phone should not be a purchase parents make because of peer pressure. Do what you feel is best for you and your family now, and allow flexibility to change your mind in the future.
To see if your child is ready, think about whether your child is responsible, respects rules, and understands what is appropriate and not in terms of behavior, both online and in person.
* What would they use the phone for?
* What would they do if a friend wanted to borrow the phone?
* What would happen if they lost the phone?
* How would they react if they found inappropriate content on their phone?
Click here for more questions to review before purchasing a phone for your offspring.
My 11 year-old has a very basic cell phone, not a smartphone, with a simple month-to-month phone contract (which is separate from the usage contract I have with my kiddo). Here’s why:
* I don’t want her having unlimited internet access.
Frankly, I have enough to monitor online, I didn’t want to add another device. Also, she has access to the internet at home, where it is easier for me monitor. She does not need a smart phone. (Yes, she wants one. That’s different.)
* Her phone makes my life easier.
Sometimes I run late, and I appreciate being able to give her a heads up. It was especially handy during this frigid winter and I didn’t have to worry about her standing in sub-zero temperatures. Or last night when she was at her dad’s house, I could send a quick text letting her know carpool had changed and I would now be picking her up today after school.
* It’s a helpful safety device.
She can reach me when she needs, which had happened when
* I’m a big believer in training wheels.
I’m not a baptism by fire kind of parent. Some people are, and that’s great that it works for them. My kid and I both do better when we ease into things, and I’ve found that it’s taken some time to get up to speed on proper use and care of her phone. Remembering to take it with her, keeping it charged, and forgetting how to use voice mail are all issues that have arisen in the first few months she’s had it. I’d rather deal with those matters on a “starter” phone. Of course, maybe they’ve come up because she’s not as excited and on it as much as she would be a smart phone. That’s okay. I want her to demonstrate responsibility before we jump to the next level.
Speaking of the next level, I also want to win the lottery before we upgrade to a smart phone because holy moly, those contracts are expensive! We got a cheap phone (under $50) so if it’s lost or damage, it’s not a huge financial hit. We pay $15/month on a month-to-month arrangement, not a long contract. It’s not free, but it’s not the four figures we’d be looking at each year with a smart phone. It also gives me the ability to cancel if I feel she’s not handling it responsibly.
We use Kajeet (which is not sponsoring this in anyway and has no idea this blog exists) and both parents receive weekly emails showing who she has called or texted and when. It breaks the time down into before, during, and after school. It also includes location services, allows parents to turn the phone off at designated times (such as during school or at night). We’re happy with it. We won’t have such a plan forever, but it makes keeping tabs on my 11 year-old’s usage a whole lot easier.
That said, some families who have given their kids smartphones have done so without problems and the cost/benefit analysis worked out for them.
After considering all the factors (and yes, there are a lot of factors), to what’s right for your family, regardless of the pressure from others to phone or not to phone.
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Filed under: Cell Phones and Electronic Devices