What is the Right Age for a Cell Phone?

Age vs. Maturity: Do you ever wonder when is the right age to give your children a cell phone? Many parents struggle with this decision. How do you decide? It is actually better not to look at age, but to look at maturity level. For example, a 14-year old might not be ready, while a 10-year old might be. Not all 14-year olds are the same, nor are all 10-year olds. Sometimes a child might be very technologically savvy and know how to navigate the internet, but lack the necessary maturity. It is better to consider several factors instead of looking at age alone. So, how do you decide? Let’s consider three important factors:

Follow House/School Rules: 1. Does your child follow rules at home and school? At home, for instance, does your child keep things clean? If your child goes out, does the child come back home on time? At home, for instance, does your child keep things clean? If your child goes out, does the child come back home on time? Is your child cooperative about bedtime or do you have to issue constant reminders? Related to school, does your child finish all homework or put it off? If given a phone, will your child put it away during class? Or will your child be texting under the desk or bothering others? If your child is prone to bullying others, will having a phone make that behavior worse? If so, it may not be a good idea to give the child a phone.

Good Responsibility and Judgment: 2. The second factor is good responsibility and judgment. Is your child responsible about taking care of things like backpack, clothing and homework? Or does your child constantly lose things? In that case, you might think twice about giving the child a phone, which is an expensive item. Having a phone means having the ability to download apps. Will your child understand this responsibility or run up a big bill, making you end up broke? Some phone contracts have limited minutes. Can your child adhere to the limits or will they be ignored and you will get a big bill?

Ability to Understand Money: 3. The third factor is money. Does your child understand the costs involved with having a phone and what is involved with a two-year contract? If your child has no concept of money, then more likely, the child is probably not ready for a phone.

Now that we have discussed what to consider about your children, let’s look at what parents should consider. If you are barely getting by with money, making a loan or charging a credit card in order to buy a phone for your child is probably not setting the best example.

Teach Delay Gratification: If you can’t afford a phone, you can discuss this with your child and maybe make plans to save up for one. This will teach your child the concept of delayed gratification, which is an important lesson to teach. Sometimes children feel like they are the only one of their group of friends who doesn’t have a phone. If you can’t afford a phone, you can focus on teaching your child that it is okay to be different, that every family has different needs, money, income, and values. Not having a phone does not mean your child can’t keep in touch with friends or use the internet. There are other ways to do this.

Other Special Reasons for Phone: Sometimes parents might have special reasons they want to give children a phone. If the parents are divorced and the children go back and forth between two homes, one parent may feel it is important to be able to communicate with the child when not with that parent.

Another instance is if the child stays after school for activities like plays or sports, and the parent is not sure when it will be finished, a phone allows communication with parents for when to pick up. If you are going to give a child a phone for that main reason, do so only if the child is mature enough and can handle it.

Another situation is when parents want children who are at home alone to be able to reach them in case of problems or an emergency. Suppose you consider all of the factors we have discussed, give them a lot of thought, and decide that your child is not ready to be given a phone. Then, upon telling your child this, if you are met with constant arguing, begging and pestering, how do you deal with this? That will be addressed in our next vlog.

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