Before the holidays, we tackled questions about when kids are ready for e-readers and tablets, as well as handheld gaming devices. But one of the most frequent topics we’re asked about is just when kids should get their own cell phone.
Of course, with any gadget, you need gauge how responsible your kids
are. Not just whether they’re able to keep track of the phone, but also
if they’re ready for everything that phone ownership entails. This is
especially pertinent if you’re considering a smart phone with Internet
access. It’s essential that children are aware of cyber bullying and privacy laws, which can be difficult for even some tweens to fully comprehend.
So with all that in mind, here’s what we recommend when it comes to getting a cell phone for your child.
By all accounts, an elementary-aged
kid probably doesn’t need a cell phone. That said, there are special
circumstances, where perhaps a child is walking to and from school with
friends, or taking public transportation and might need a way for
parents to check in on them. Additionally, I’ve seen divorced parents
give their kids a cell phone so they can communicate easily with the other
parent while they are away.
In either case, I’d start them out on an inexpensive phone with a pre-paid or month-to-month plan, like a Firefly, that has super limited capabilities — calling or texting only the numbers you program into the address book, for example.
Tweens and Teens
your kids get older and have shown some responsibility with a starter
phone, you could consider upgrading them to a cell phone that looks a
little cooler than a kids’ cell phone. You’ll find a slew of pre-paid or
month-to-month plans with more mature looking phones at Best Buy.
If you think your older kiddo is ready for a
smart phone, consider attaching it to your own family plan so they have
unlimited texting and in-network calling. You can also set a password for app purchases to avoid any you haven’t approved.
Just keep in mind
that kids can be serial texters and Facebook addicts. Those kids will
be better off sticking to the cheap phone until they can show they’re
capable of respecting limits with a smartphone. On
the flip side, there are plenty of kids who benefit educationally from
the apps and are able to control their usage, therefore making them good
candidates for a smart phone.
Smart Advice for First Cell Phones
any gadget, we strongly recommend talking to your kids about
expectations and appropriate usage. Set limits! And please encourage them to talk to you immediately if they
receive a questionable text message or phone call, with the
understanding that your number one job is to make sure they are safe.
We’re big fans of having kids earn
their gadgets; having older kids pay for the cell phone or the monthly
plan might help in encouraging more responsibility on their part.
while your kids might beg you for a phone because “all the other kids
have one,” you know your child best. -Kristen