Parents of tweens face begging and pleading as kids at younger ages “need” a cell phone. Consider your child’s needs, as well as your own, before giving in.
Parents need to give careful thought to when, or if, they purchase a cell phone for their child. There is much peer pressure for both kids and parents to supply cell phones for young children. Stay-at-home parents may feel additional insecurity over the financial burden of a cell phone for a child in middle school. Here are a few things to consider if your middle-schooler is begging for a phone:
Do you trust your child to be responsible for the physical phone? This means that if your child frequently loses things or doesn’t remember things, the phone may not offer the benefits either of you are seeking. For a child who misplaces their belongings regularly, work out a contract to help them stay organized. Maybe a cell phone is a reward at the end of a successful time period.
Is your child old enough to understand the dangers of having a cell phone? A phone allows anyone anywhere to contact your child through voice, text, or pictures. A data plan gives kids access to video games and to pictures and content that may be inappropriate. Conversations about sexting and cyber-bullying should be part of discussions around using a cell phone responsibly.
Do you believe your child needs a cell phone? For some parents, it is simply more convenient if the child has a phone. Kids can call home for rides from practices and parents can keep track, through satellite locators, of where their kids are.
Is your child easily distracted? Consider whether it may be dangerous for your child to be walking down the street talking or texting. A distracted pedestrian may mean someone who is not paying attention to cars or to their surroundings.
Does your child have good social interaction with other peers? Texting and other phone use should not be a substitute for playing and face-to-face interaction.
Will your child be staying after school for meetings, practices, or to watch sporting events? It is rare to find a payphone these days and school offices are typically closed after the school day has ended. Kids may have legitimate reasons for needing a phone to let parents know where they are.
Does your child have a special need like diabetes, a food allergy, or other health concern where a cell phone may provide peace of mind for both middle-schoolers and their parents? If a child is alone or with friends and has a medical emergency, a cell phone may give them the ability to call 911 or a parent for help.
There are many reasons for a middle-school-age child to have a cell phone, and many reasons why they shouldn’t have one. It is important for parents to consider what works best for each family member. You can provide kids phones for good purposes like tracking their movements via the Phone Tracker app. For parents who want to try a cell phone with a middle-schooler, a pre-paid phone plan may be a less risky initial investment.
Don’t allow outside pressure to influence your decision about your child’s readiness for a cell phone. Consider the questions listed above and evaluate your family’s circumstances to make a good decision.