7 Steps for Parents: Should Your Child Have a Cell Phone?

0423webstory_text10.jpgMorgan Pozgar sends over 4,000 texts a month.
This is her ‘training’ for the LG National Texting Championship.
She competed against thousands of people on April 21, 2007.
She texted the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in 42 seconds.
She won $25,000.
She is 13.

Imagine the day when the Olympics and Physical Education classes are replaced by texting and videogame championships and training, when you might walk into a pre-school class and overhear the teacher asking the kids to make sure their cell phones are turned off. Ok, I am exaggerating just a bit, but you get the idea. Cell phones are a major concern for many parents.

I feel that families can be well prepared to approach the cell phone dilemma with confidence and allow kids to have a modified cell phone starting at a young age (I personally think you can start at 7). As a young person, who might have abused my cell phone privelages a few times, I want to provide some steps for parents to protect their child from the dangers (and abuses) of a cell phone as much as possible:
(If your child already has a phone, see if you can switch plans or make some new ground rules starting at Step 6.)

Step 1: Weigh the Pros and Cons

Cons:

-Potential health risks: brain damage, hearing loss, radiation or tumors
-Protecting children’s privacy from unknown callers, advertisements or hackers.
-Controlling children’s communications with friends, social engagements and who they are in contact with, when they are too young to understand all of the risks.
-The gift that keeps giving, high phone bill costs.

Pros:

-Allows you and them to keep in contact at all times, no matter where they are.
-Easier to make plans, pick-up times and locations so the child does not have to wait in an unsafe place, borrow a strangers phone etc.
-In the case of an emergency, it can be a lifeline, where children always have a method of reaching you if phone lines are down or there is no other phone.
-GPS features can allow you to keep tabs on your child at all times.

Step 2: Talk to Them
-Find out if they want a phone and why. You want them to be on the same page as you, so there are no surprises (and they do not get their hopes up for a blackberry and really get a Disney Phone). This will also help you have an idea of how they plan on using it to get the most cost-effective plan.

-Tell them your concerns about having a cell phone and that you plan on having a number of ground rules and a service that will also have guidelines. (again prepare them)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGs6OPpVJEg[/youtube]

Step 3: Research a Service and a Phone

Sprint Service and Phone
*Allows parents to set wireless ‘boundaries’ for the phone to work.
* Controls which contacts can be entered into the phone book.
* Restricts incoming calls to those that are programmed by the parent.
Cost: $79.99; the parental control feature is part of the phone and can be added to your family plan.

Verizon Service and Phone

*”Chaperone Service” parents can restrict numbers and calling times
* “Child Zone Service” allows parents to locate your child’s phone from your phone or computer. You set up the locations such as home or school and receive text messages when the phone leaves those areas. (thank goodness this was not around when I was in High School)
Cost: The Chaperone service must be activated by a Family Share account, which is $9.99 per month. Chaperone with Child Zone feature costs $19.99 a month.

AT&T (Coming soon a service called: “Smart Limits”.)
* Limits for number of texts and instant messages
* Limits dollar amount of downloadable purchases (ringtones, games, etc)
*Limits times of day the phone can be used
*Limits who the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing)
*Limits Internet content access

firefly-image_0422.jpgFireFly Phone $39.99
* Has 5 buttons to store up to 20 numbers, has designated buttons for ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ and ‘emergency’.
* PIN protection allows parents to limit incoming and outgoing calls to numbers stored in the phone book.
*Also has upgrades: GlowPhone $49.99, FlyPhone, $99.99

TicTalk $99, $9.99 a month (AT&T only) also pre-paid cards.
*Kids ages 6 and up and comes with five educational games
*Parents can put the child’s spelling list in to be used in Hangman.
* Parents control incoming/outgoing calls, the times of day to call

Whereifone $80, $20 per month plans
*For ages 6 to 10 built in GPS, fed to you via web or phone access
*Parents can see where the phone has been- get periodic updates.
* A 20-number phone book where parents can restrict calls
* An “SOS” panic button for emergencies.

Step 4: Check Out What Other People are Doing

I hate recommending this, but talking to other parents or your school is a good idea o gauge what other people are doing with their kids in your area.

Step 5: Make a Purchase
I think it is great to buy it with them, so they can get excited and understand that it is a big deal and a big responsibility. You might consider having them pay for part of it or do chores to earn it. (again glad this post was not around when got my first phone)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGs6OPpVJEg[/youtube]

Step 6: Set-up the Rules and the Phone

Program in all relevant numbers, put the GPS reminders or limits on the phone and your computer. Make sure YOU know how to work it before handing it over to your kid, one of the major loopholes the teens I know abuse, is that they know their parents couldn’t figure out who they have been calling even if they wanted to, because their parents cannot work the phone. After you have figured it out, hand it over with a very specific set of guidelines and rules, with the consequences laid out clearly (I like written contracts for things like this).

Step 7: Trust Them…closely
Tell them you trust them with this big responsibility and let them try it while keeping tabs.

I hope that this helps you make your decision about getting your child or teen a phone. Whether your child has one already or not, I really think phones can actually help you keep your kid safer with all of the new features that are out there.

Also see my post: Sample Teen Parent Contract on Cell Phone Rules

Dream big, work hard and you will get there,

Vanessa

54 thoughts on “7 Steps for Parents: Should Your Child Have a Cell Phone?”

  1. You shouldn’t have one unless you can write sentences well and spell “curricular”.

  2. Notice the key word about your cousins. “older”. They have phones because they are older.

  3. You’re the right age, tell them about different plans. Such as on Verizon, you can add unlimited talk and text on a basic phone onto their plan for only 9.99

  4. edited version:
    I’m 11 years old, and I’m just starting middle school. My mom doesn’t think I need a cell phone right now….. you know what? I give up! I can’t stand this crappy writing!

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