Your Child Wants a Cell Phone, But Are They Ready?
“But mom, I am the only person I know that doesn’t have one.”
Oh, kids can be very good at throwing guilt around. But before giving in, consider if your child is ready to have a cell phone. This blog will discuss cell phones for tweens and teens and how to determine if your child is mature enough to handle having on-the-go access to the digital world.
Cell phones are great for staying connected.
As teens and tweens grow, staying connected with their peers is important for healthy social development. Being able to talk with friends and otherwise engage with their peers is a normal part of growing up in today’s digital age. Cell phones also allow kids to stay connected with their parents or caregivers.
Cell phones are distracting.
No matter your age, cell phones are distracting. Most parents would agree that it can be very difficult to have an uninterrupted face-to-face conversation with a teen with a cell phone nearby. All those notifications draw their attention away from the person speaking to them. A cell phone literally transforms the user into Pavlov’s dog. But instead of salivating with the ring of a bell, a rush of adrenaline is felt with every notification urging them to see what just came across their phone. And that distraction continues in the classroom. This can create big problems for teachers and students alike.
If you are reading this, you are probably considering buying a cell phone for your child. Here are some ways to gauge if they are truly ready.
Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?
- How old is your child? Many kids are ready for a cell phone by age 13 but ultimately, it is up to you. Your and their world will change when a cell phone is added into the mix. Consider the ramifications before jumping into uncharted territory. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, didn’t allow his kids to get a cell phone until they turned 14. The founder of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, limits screen time for his kids to an hour and a half PER WEEK. And prior to his death, Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids use the iPad and limited how much screen time his kids were allowed. These tech moguls know a thing or two about the dangers of screen time, and their reservations about screen time use should be taken seriously.
- What is the reason the phone is desired? Depending on the need for a phone, a smartphone may not be the best option. If your child wants a phone to stay connected to you and to call friends via phone calls, a flip phone may be a better solution. Some smartwatches allow them to stay connected without digital baggage. An iPad could also work if they want a phone to interact with friends via text or video calls. Plus, they can’t put the iPad in their back pocket, which helps limit use.
- Does your child have impulse control? As mentioned earlier, a phone is very distracting and can become an issue if they can’t shut it down or turn off notifications when their focus is important, such as while at school, when driving, and when doing homework. The more connected they become, the more notifications they will receive. If your child is more likely to act before thinking, they may not be ready. Some teens regret getting a phone so early because they didn’t realize how distracting it would be or the social drama they would be subjected to.
- How will you manage and monitor their cell phone use? Having a cell phone opens your child to the digital world. This means they have direct access to things that may not be age-appropriate. That’s why it is important for parents and caregivers to have a way to limit access to certain websites and to limit time on the device. Most phones have parental controls and settings that allow filtering and timers for use. Set parental controls to ensure they are protected. Explain to your child why you are going to have these controls in place, so there is full transparency.
- Will your child have other ways to connect with friends? One downfall of cell phone use is that kids have a more difficult time having voice and face-to-face conversations. It is critical for healthy development that they know how to communicate beyond typing. Ensure your child has time to get together with friends in-person and have voice phone conversations with family and friends.
Your child’s readiness to have a cell phone is ultimately your decision. Don’t let pressure from your child that they are the last teen or tween in the world without a phone sway you. Once they have a phone, their world opens up to both good and bad. Ensure they are as ready for that next step as possible. If you are still unsure, AT&T developed a phone-ready questionnaire that can help you. We are also happy to speak with you about this during your child’s next well-child examination.