Deciding to give your child a cell phone is a huge step. Theres plenty to consider before you hand them a device. Perhaps some of these questions have come to mind:
How will they use their phone?
Will they be safe?
Will they be responsible?
What if they lose it, or break it?
Eventually, though, parents take the leap. While theres plenty of debate about what the right age is to give your kid a cell phone, it truly differs for every family. Its a personal choice.
If youre ready to buy your child a cell phone, were here to help. Having a conversation about cell phone ownership and responsibility can be tough. So, weve put together some guidelines to help ensure you hit all the points.
When you first start the conversation about getting your child a cell phone, its important to lay down your expectations of what the device is to be used for. Do you expect it to be an emergency-only phone? Or perhaps its a way to keep in touch as your child starts to have more activities after school, like sports practice, music rehearsal, or even time with friends.
If you have an older child, perhaps youre giving them a cell phone for social purposes, such as keeping up with friends, making plans, and even having a way to call home if theyre out and about.
Whatever your expectations are for the phone, make sure you communicate this clearly with your child. This way you avoid conflict and confusion down the road.
Make Manners Matter
Were incredibly attached to our cell phones today. Unfortunately, that means we dont always have the best cell phone etiquette. Make sure you have a conversation with your child about cell phone manners, including when its appropriate to use the phone (i.e., not at the dinner table or at school).
Its also important to touch on how they use their phones, especially since devices today have so many features (like cameras). Putting cell phone use into perspective can help with this. For example, tell your child to think before sending a text or photo would they want the whole school to see it? What about the principal?
Its important they remember that anything in writing (or even in a photo) isnt private. Even apps like Snapchat, where pictures automatically delete after a certain amount of time, arent secret. Someone can easily take a screenshot of your Snapchat photo and pass it on.
Get Serious about Safety
While parents often give children cell phones for safety purposes, the devices themselves can also be cause for safety concerns. Most phones are equipped to surf the web, send messages, and download apps, all away from parents eyes. While giving your child a phone means trusting them to be responsible, its also a parents role to teach their children proper phone safety.
First and foremost, have an open and honest conversation about cyberbullying and inappropriate texting two acts that are all too prevalent among kids with cell phones. Let your children know they can come to you if they are feeling pressured or bullied. Remind them that any picture they take or send is one they should be comfortable sending to the principal and to you.
Its important to also let them know that taking part in cyberbullying or inappropriate texting is wrong, and can lead them into a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, its easy for something seemingly innocent to turn hurtful for someone else. Remind your children to always ask before sending or posting a picture of a friend, and to never share a text message unless they have that persons permission.
Apart from bullying and inappropriate texting, make sure your child knows how to be safe online and on the phone. Let them know what sites and apps are appropriate and which are not. Teach them about spam texts (unsolicited advertisements in the form of texts) and how to avoid falling into the spam trap. Also talk about the importance of not answering calls from numbers they dont recognize, and never posting their whereabouts on social media. While these guidelines may seem like common sense to us, your child may not think of the harmful effects. Pass along your phone experience!
And finally, if you have an older child, have a serious talk about texting and driving. According to the CDC, nine people are killed every day from accidents involving a distracted driver. Make sure your children know that, no matter what text message they need to send, it can always wait.
Lay Down the Law
After youve set expectations, discussed etiquette, and reviewed safety, its time to finalize the rules. Make sure your child knows exactly what they can and cannot do on their phone, as well as the times you expect them to NOT use their device (i.e., after 8 p.m.).
Some parents find writing up a contract helpful for this step. In doing so, all of the expectations are clearly written out and the contract can be referenced if theres ever a disagreement. This could even help you keep costs down by setting up rules about how many apps they can download and how many text messages they can send (if youre really worried about too much talk and text, check out an unlimited plan).
It might even be helpful to write up a contract for the whole family! This way, youll uphold your end of the bargain, too.
Lead by Example
Speaking of holding up your end of the bargain, children learn a lot just from observing their parents. Keep this in mind when using your cell phone. Do you look at your device while your children are talking to you? Do you text and drive? Are you a little too glued to those fun apps?
Make sure that whatever guidelines and etiquette you want your children to respect, you respect them too! After all, the best example of safe and appropriate cell phone use comes from you.
Do you have more tips for parents who are talking to their kids about owning a cell phone? Help your fellow parents out and share them on our Facebook page!