The pressure’s on parents to supply cell phones earlier and earlier … but what IS the best age for a cell phone?
Every child wants a cell phone and they’re wanting them earlier than ever, it seems. But you’re no dummy: Giving a cell phone to any child is giving him immediate, un-parented freedom, so you know you’ve got to be smart about it.
There are four key questions you should answer before giving your kid a cell phone says Common Sense Media, the nation’s leading independent non-profit advocate for kids. They are:
1) What can the phone do and can my child do it?
Talk to other parents who have bought cell phones for their kids. Do your research. Focus on understanding what the phone can do (photos, videos, texts, programs, etc.) and whether or not your child can actually do those things with the phone.
2) What are the risks?
Cyberbullying, cyber harassment or sexting. You can’t effectively discuss these risks with your child unless you understand them yourself. Read the Ohio code here.
3) Is my child responsible enough to handle it and the risks, too?
Each child matures at a different rate, and you will need to carefully gauge whether your child is capable of understanding what he’s doing with a phone. The bottom line is that he needs to be mature enough to understand and respect the consequences of violating your policy and his school’s (or worse, state or federal law), and also mature enough not to toss the phone in the wash with his dirty jeans (although this will probably happen anyway!).
4) Am I comfortable discussing the risks with my child?
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of discussing cyberbullying or sexting with your child, then it’s unfair to give him a gadget that makes it possible to do either.
You put a lot of time, money and effort into keeping your children safe and healthy. From car seats, to bike helmets, to swimming lessons and driver education courses, you do your best to ensure that your kids don’t get injured as they mature to adulthood. You need to do the same with the cell phone she so eagerly desires.