In 2006, almost twelve percent of children 6 – 11 years of age had a cell phone. In 2009, that jumped to twenty percent. A large percent of those users are the girls, followed closely by the boys. With the rate of children cell phone users on the rise, if you’re a parent chances are you’ve had or will have the cell phone conversation.
Before you take the leap and give your child a cell phone, there is some things to consider. There’s no clear cut age that a child needs a cell phone. Just as each child is unique, so are there skills to handle things like a cell phone. You need to think about your child and their abilities to keep track of things. You need to consider where they will have this phone and why they might need it. For most parents it’s a safety precaution. Also, consider what giving your child a cell phone will do to your bill.
If it’s time for your child to have a cell phone, be sure you know the rules of their school. Some schools completely ban cell phones, while others allow a cell phone at specific time (ie before or after school.) Make sure your child is aware of those rules and can follow them.
When selecting a phone plan for your child, ask about all your options.
There are cell phone plans that are pre-paid, meaning you load the phone with money. When that money is gone, the phone don’t work again until you put more money on. This might be a great way to go, if you think your child might loose the phone.
There are cell phone plans that limit the numbers that can be called. You can program the phone to only allow your child to call selected numbers. Of course they would always be able to call 911.
A family plan might be an option, too. This often means your child would be using your talk and texting minutes. This might be a good option for a family that don’t always use all their minutes. Be careful about going over your minutes. Make sure you’re aware of that, as teenagers love to talk.
Once you’ve selected the cell phone plan and the cell phone, it’s a good idea to make sure your child is aware of the rules. Talk to your child and let them know what cyber bullying is. It’s important to make sure your child knows it’s unacceptable. Also, it’s a good time to open the line of communication, let your child know they can talk to you if they are being cyber bullied.
Cell phones with camera’s can present their own set of problems. Talking with your child about what is and is not appropriate with a camera phone is a must. Sexting (taking and sending nude pictures) is a growing problem. Some children don’t understand sexting comes with adult consequences. Set rules for the camera and don’t be afraid to check the phone. You should check the cell phone and keep your child safe.
If your teenager will be driving, talk to them about driving safely with a cell phone. Make sure they know the dangers of texting and driving. As a parent, you need to set the rules. They will test them so be prepared to restrict cell phone privileges, if need be.
Consider making a contract for your child. This contract should list your rules and consequences for breaking them. On the contract list who pays for what, don’t forget about the overages. Make sure the contract is clear and be prepared to enforce it.
A cell phone is not a toy. Make sure your child is taking the responsibility seriously.
Source: New York Times