Cell Phones

  • Some single parents and working parents find it essential for their young child (between the ages of 5 and 9) to have a kid-friendly cell phone that can be programmed with five numbers (such as for home, your work, the next-door neighbor, grandparents, and another significant adult). All the child has to do is hit one number, and the cell phone makes the call. It’s a great way to have your child check in with you to let you know he caught the bus or has safely gotten home. Other parents wait until their child gets older (either in junior or senior high) and use the phone as a way to stay in touch and allow the child more independence.
  • Start out with a pay-as-you go cell phone, which is cheaper and has more limited features. Be clear about who pays, especially if your child uses more than the allotted number of minutes or downloads ringtones or games, which cost an additional fee.
  • Many school districts are now banning cell phones, so you may not be able to get a hold of your child during school hours via cell phone. If this is the main reason you want your child to get a cell phone, you might want to reconsider.
  • Know that kids play pranks on each other’s cell phones. Middle-school kids are notorious for kidnapping cell phones and using up all the monthly minutes as a joke, which is not funny for the actual user (or the parent who may be paying the bill).
  • Research which options are available on cell phones. Kids often want as many features as possible, but each may cost an additional fee. Remember that once your child has a cell phone, it will be difficult to monitor its use (besides the bills), so think carefully before you allow a cell phone that has Internet access or can play movies. If the phone can take photos or videos, be clear of what’s acceptable to photograph or film—and what’s not.
  • Make clear to your teenager that he should never drive while talking on a cell phone or read or send text messages while driving. If he needs to make a call, require that he pull over and not drive while calling.
  • Just because your child has a cell phone doesn’t mean that you’ll know where she is (or that you’ll be able to get a hold of her). The batteries can run out. Kids can call and say they’re at the library when they’re actually at a friend’s house. Keep in mind that cell phones are not foolproof.
 

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