A couple of Christmases ago, a Massachusetts mother gave her 13-year-old son an iPhone for Christmas, along with an 18-point contract that he had to sign in order to use it. The first rule on the list: "It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?" The contract soon went viral.
Many of my 11-year-old son's friends have cell phones, and some of my 8-year-old son's do too. Today, 56% of tweens (ages 8-12) and 78% of teens have their own cell phones (Sources: National Consumers League Press Release and 2013 Pew Research Center Report). Although at times it would be helpful, I'm not quite ready for either of my sons to have their own phone ... and I don't think they are quite ready either.
Like most parenting decisions, there is no right answer to the question of when to purchase a cell phone for your child. Some of these points of consideration will help you make the right choice for your family.
Convenience: The convenience of a cell phone can't be beat. Many parents feel a sense of security knowing they can quickly reach their children in the event of an emergency. Most teens, too, like having a parent just a phone call or text away ... even if they won't admit it.
Cost: Adding another phone line to your current bill isn't free. Accidents happen, so replacement costs and/or insurance also need to be considered.
Health: Pediatricians and family doctors are seeing growing evidence that cell phones and computer screens can disrupt sleep patterns. Sleep is essential, of course. Turning all the gadgets off one to two hours before bedtime may be necessary.
Maturity: Has your child demonstrated responsibility in other areas of her life? Is he trustworthy? Does your child understand and obey limits on other items like TV and video games? More than age, your child's maturity level will determine his or her readiness.
Safety: Most cell phones are more than just a phone, providing access to the internet, social media, videos, games, and more. As we discuss in our article, Helping Your Teen Stay Safe on Social Media, certain steps should be taken to protect our kids online. This includes when our kids go online from their phones.
Driving: I don't think it is possible to say "DO NOT TEXT WHILE DRIVING" too many times. Talk to your teen about the risks. Then talk about it again. And again. Make sure you are setting a good example by not texting and driving either.