Cell phones have completely revolutionised the way we interact with our world. These little devices form such a big part of our daily lives that it is inevitable that every child, at some stage in his or her life will start begging to own one too.
Giving your child a cell phone holds many benefits.
- For starters, it makes life a heck of a lot more convenient. Your children can simply phone you to let you know when to fetch them or when plans have changed.
- It helps keep children safe, not only does it help you keep tabs on where they are at all times, but it also means that they can get hold of you in an emergency.
- And then, an added little bonus. Who would ever think that kids and cell phones would make for such a powerful bargaining tool? As in “I’m taking your cell phone away from you. You can have it back when you’ve done your chores / homework / cleaned your room” 🙂
But there are some disadvantages too. For instance in this country (sadly), owning a cell phone can make kids targets for crime. They can also put themselves at risk in all sorts of other ways.
Here are some of my thoughts on giving children cell phones:
- Young children don’t really need cell phones. I personally don’t think children under the age of 12 should be given cell phones. But, if you feel that your younger child needs a cell phone to keep him safe, be sure to buy a very simple simple phone. Something that can simply dial out and receive calls. Something that won’t break when it is dropped and that won’t put them at risk for opportunists trying to lift a fancy phone.
- Children should not be allowed to use their phones at bedtime – many pediatricians report a lack of adequate sleep in their young patients because they spend several hours after bedtime on their phones. I would advise that parents take cell phones away from their children at least an hour before bed time and then give them back again after breakfast the next morning.
- Children should not be allowed to use their cell phones in class. Many schools now have “cell phone boxes” in classes – children put their phones off and put their cell phones in the box at the start of the day and can them collect them again at the end of the day.
- Set limits on what they can spend. Children have not learnt good consumer habits yet and run the risk of running up huge cell phone bills if not limited to what they can spend. You need to also explain to them that they need to be aware of how often they use their phones and to ensure that there is always enough credits left to make a call in case of an emergency. Monitor their expenditure regularly and make them a part of this process to help them understand how it all works.
- Set rules around cell phone usage during family time and social outings. insist on keeping your child’s phone when you go on outings or visit friends and family – that way they still have access to it if they REALLY need it or want to show it off, but are encouraged to interact with those around them. I also feel that children should be taught to put away their phones at night when family members all get home and to spend some time just relaxing as a family.
- Be aware of your own cell phone habits – parents can hardly hope to set sustainable limits on their child’s cell phone use if they themselves are compulsively checking their phones all the time.
- Teach your child good cell phone behaviour. This would include never, ever sending out inappropriate content and photographs and alerting you immediately if they receive this kind of content from others; not sending out photographs of others without their permission; not spreading rumours and not having personal conversations in public places.