Cell phones and kids shouldn’t go together, but in today’s age, they do. Nearly the same rite of passage as getting a driver’s license, cell phones are in the hands of most teens.
But, should your child have a cell phone?
Sure, cell phones provide you a tool to communicate with your child and vice-versa, but aside from the given for communicating, not every kid should have one.
Before you head out and grab a phone for your kid, these are some important questions to ask to determine if your child should have a cell.
– How does your child handle expensive gifts? Do they treat the gifts like they are of value, or toss it around and not handle it with care? Phones are expensive and if your child doesn’t value the cost and cannot treat the device with the respect it deserves, a phone is a bad idea. Or, invest in a flip phone strictly for communication purposes.
– How does your child manage the birthday or holiday money they receive? Do they act like the money burns a hole in their pocket, or are they responsible with the money and use if for something they truly want? Ideally, it’s best if your child is responsible and exhibits mature thinking. The more they can exercise restraint and good judgement, the better they will be with the use of their phone and using the apps which are likely to be on it.
– Can your child regulate the time they spend on technology? I talk a lot about managing screen time and the repercussions of spending too much time online. If your child isn’t able to regulate the time they spend online, and instead lives and breathes technology, arming them with a cell phone can do more harm than good.
– Are you happy with your child’s school work? If your child’s grades are slacking or you want to see him or her be more academically responsible, a phone might not be helpful to your goal.
– Does your child interact with their peers and adults in a respectful manner? Aggression, empathy, a lack of eye contact and more are all signs that your child may be spending too much time online.
If you answered “no” to these questions, then chances are your child should not have a cell phone right now. Instead, talk to your child about the areas of their lives which could see some improvement and work out an action plan to encourage them to change their behaviors and — maybe then — they can have a cell phone.
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then before you agree to give them a cell phone, create a contract that outlines its use.=
I always encourage parents to first enroll in the Digital Citizen Academy’s home program so you can better understand the nature of going online and how to behave. After that, a cell phone contract is the way to move forward if you decide to let your child have a phone.
Here’s an example of a cell phone contract you can use with your child:
I (parent or guardian) am able to check all of your text conversations and call logs whenever I ask.
Social media is not real life. By agreeing to this contract and having a phone, you understand that you will not treat what you see on social media as reality and you will not solely communicate with your friends via social media platforms.
If you lose or break your cell phone, I will not replace it for you. It is your responsibility to save up the money to replace the phone on your own.
If you take your cell phone to school, you will lose the right to use it for one month. If you repeatedly take it to school, you will no longer be allowed to have a cell phone.
At night, you agree to give your cell phone to me and I will place it in a safe place for you. Cell phones are not to be brought into the bedroom when it’s bedtime.
If you have a cell phone, you must always remember that we are kind to one another. You must make eye contact when having conversations and mind your manners (like saying “hello” and “goodbye”). If using your cell phone results in a loss of these behaviors, it will be taken away.
I will monitor the apps you download and install on your phone. Any app I disagree with will be removed.
If I see any instances of misbehavior online — from bullying to posting inappropriate content — your phone will be taken away.
Again, be sure to take part in my home program to navigate the online world before giving a child access to it.