The big question and ongoing debate is "When is a child old enough and mature enough to have their own cell phone?"
I have a long standing relationship with one of the major cell phone providers and they loaned me a phone for my nine-year-old son to trial. I was curious to see how responsible he could be if he had his own cell phone. They provided a smartphone which was very nice, however, this had greater potential for a problematic situation. My son loves the modern day technology that comes with today's smartphones. If given the freedom to do so, he would play with mine all day. I don't approve of him playing video games and using electronics all day so I began to wonder if this phone was going to be the brunt of many arguments to come.
At the end of the “experiment,” my biggest gripe would definitely be the massive draw these phones have with their apps and games. My son (and daughter for that matter) could not get enough of the games. The fights would ensue over whose turn it was to play another game, as well as me yelling for them to stop playing and do something more productive. I began to feel resentment toward the phone - why can't the great outdoors have a stronger pull on my children than this phone?
In a nutshell, there was a mix of responsible usage along with moments of reprimand. My overall assessment for our family situation would be that nine is too young for a phone. I am either with my son, or he is in a chaperoned situation. There really is not a need for him to have his own phone, yet. But, I do see it happening sooner that I had originally thought. I can see him needing a phone when he is old enough to be out with friends. I want him to always have access to be able to call someone if he needs to. That said, I would do my best to find a phone that provided the basics and met his needs. Phone service for sure, texting... probably, games and data packages... no thank you!
One thing's for sure, no matter what age you give your child his/her first cell phone, be prepared to set some ground rules. This little experiment prompted me to interview a cell phone rep with regard to some concerns and questions that surfaced. I was informed about available features that can be useful for parents monitoring their child’s cell phone usage:
Usage Controls offer:
- Usage Allowance - Usage Allowances enable you to set limits for voice minutes and messages that can be used during a billing cycle.
- Time Restrictions - Time Restrictions allow you to limit and control cell phone use during a certain time of day or day of week.
- Blocked Numbers - Blocked Numbers restrict calls and messages with phone numbers that you designate.
- Trusted Numbers - Calls and messages are allowed for Trusted Numbers regardless of any other usage controls or restrictions.
Additionally, look into Content Filters which are usually free. Account owners can safely allow their children to access content available through their handsets with confidence that the content will be age-appropriate. This service allows account owners to establish an access setting for each line on their account. There are four age-appropriate filtering settings available to customize the type of content each line can access.
About the author:
Lisa LaGrou is the founder of OaklandCountyMoms.com. She and her team work to present quality content to their readers. Lisa likes to provide information and options for families about a myriad of topics without preaching or condoning. If she experiences something, she want to share it. If she doesn't know about something, she tries to find information to share. She's delighted when people contact her with suggestions about content and resources. For more information on how to become a member of Oakland County Moms click HERE.