Kids and Cell Phones
Does your child need a cell phone? If you decide to get your child a cell phone, how do you pick which one? Whether your child wants a cell phone or already has a one, it’s important to discuss with them the responsibility that comes with it.
- Some single parents and working parents find it essential for their young child to get 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). It’s a great way to have your child check in with you to let you know he or she caught the bus or has safely gotten home. For more tips on how to choose a cell phone for kids, see When to Get Your Child a Cell Phone
- Research which options are available on cell phones. There are so many to choose from, and the cost of service can range from around $15 a month to more than $200. Kids often want as many features as possible, but each often costs an additional fee.
- If you choose a monthly plan, you usually have to sign a two-year agreement. Most kids can start out with a pay-as-you go cell phone, which is cheaper and has more limited features.
- Review your monthly cell phone bill with your child. Make sure the expenses are what you had both planned on. If not, help your child use the cell phone differently. Figure out ways for her to pay you back for any overages. Then see if you can monitor the phone bill online twice a week until you’re certain you won’t encounter any more surprises.
- With the rapid pace of technology change, it’s easy for kids to discover all kinds of ways to use cell phones that parents never dreamed of. Ask your child how he uses his cell phone and how other kids use their phones. Teenagers may be more likely to tell you what other kids are doing (instead of what they’re doing).
- Remember that once your child has a cell phone, it will be difficult to monitor its use (other than through the bills). Consider installing a cell phone monitoring service like My Mobile Watchdog or take time each evening to go through your child’s text messages and discuss anything you are uncomfortable with. Read more about cell phone safety and boundaries
- Talk about the situations kids may encounter when they have a cell phone. Some kids play pranks on each other’s cell phones (such as reprogramming it in Chinese). 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. Read more about bullying and cyberbullying
- Just because your child has a cell phone doesn’t mean that you know where your child is (or that you’ll be able to get a hold of him). The batteries can run out. Kids can call and say they’re at the library when they’re actually at a friend’s house. Cell phones are not foolproof. Talk about the importance of honesty.
- Talk to your child about cell phone manners. While cell phones are great connectors for “out-of-sight” people, kids need to learn not to be rude to people sitting right next to them.
- Encourage your child to only talk to people she knows in person. For more tips on talking to your child, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Talking to Kids and Teens about Social Media and Sexting
There are hundreds—if not thousands—of cell phone choices available to kids and parents. By making an informed decision on which phone and plan to get your child and talking about how to appropriately use the phone, you can save yourself a great deal of trouble later.
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Hot Topic: Sexting
It’s estimated that 20% of teenagers have sent sexually explicit photographs to someone else from a cell phone. In many instances, the pictures are seen by more than just the recipient – they are passed along to friends and classmates. This behavior is not only inappropriate, due to child pornography laws, it is illegal.