Your child just came to you pleading for a cellphone, a request that was no doubt made calmly with statistical data of technology trends and its impact on the modern family or how phones can make both parents and kids feel better connected. Yeah right. It probably sounded more like one of those screaming goats you’ve seen online.
First, this is not a time to panic. (That comes later.) Take a deep breath, do your homework and get prepared for your life to never be the same again. A cell phone is now considered an early rite of passage among the preteen set. Much like going to the mall alone or being allowed to stay outside until the street lights came on was for us back in the day. It’s their first grasp at independence and one we should support (and monitor) every step of the way.
Here are 4 things to consider before purchasing your child’s first phone:
1. Consider your child’s maturity level
According to an Asurion study, most kids (66%) have cellphone by age 12. However, this statistic does not dictate that owning a cellphone is necessary for every child. Maturity levels vary drastically from one child to another. Before purchasing a cellphone you should ask yourself if your child has proven herself mature enough to handle the responsibility.
2. Be prepared to monitor phone use
Owning a cellphone can make parents feel more secure with the ability to reach their child at any moment. However, they can also be dangerous if the child is given unfettered access to the web. Think about all they can access: thousands of apps available and the World Wide Web are just a click away. Monitoring your child’s activity on the phone can be a full time job. Think about how much time you want to spend monitoring their use. If the idea of going through the process (and trust me it’s a process) of monitoring your child’s activities on the phone sounds untenable, then a more basic phone that only makes phone calls and texts might be a better option.
3. Understand the costs
Cellphones aren’t cheap. Feature phones can reach upwards of $300 and smartphones are topping out at a whopping $750 full retail. Then there’s the monthly expense of the phone. We’ve all heard horror stories of parents who receive a $400 phone bill because of their child’s voracious texting. Determining the amount of money you’re willing to spend on your child’s phone & monthly bill is crucial before purchasing a phone. You should also explain how those charges add up so your child understands the impact of their minutes, texts and data usage.
4. Set house rules
Before you even bring the new phone home, it’s important to set some ground rules to determine things like:
• Appropriate times and places for your child to be on the phone
• Designated charging areas so they don’t stay up all night playing games and texting
• Apps they can and can’t download, even the free ones
No matter how you decide to approach getting your child’s first cellphone, it’s important to focus on what your child needs and then do what’s best for them.