When should your child get a cell phone?
posted by: Guest Blogger
My 8-year-old daughter recently informed me she’s getting a cell phone when she’s 10. As usual, she’s not thinking about the fact that her dad and I are the ones who must agree to this, pay for it, etc. But she says there are kids at her elementary school who do use cell phones – even fellow third-graders. What could a third-grader possibly need a phone for? On a recent road trip, our daughter texted for the first time with a 13-year-old friend who was with us.
The text conversation went like this:
My daughter: ?????????????@@@@@@@@@@
Older friend: Wow
My daughter: Wow! That’s amazing!
Older friend: I know
My daughter: actually it’s not very cool
Older friend: Yes it is
My daughter: no its not
Older friend: Yes it is
I could go on for another hour or so but I’ll spare you. I think this sample text conversation speaks for itself. We also have a 17-year-old exchange student living with us. She loves her phone and gets panicky if she can’t locate it right away. But I will say it’s been a valuable asset for us all. I know it’s always with her and that I can always reach her via text. I know she can always reach me. She regularly checks Facebook and texts on her phone and plays songs on You Tube – yet she’s not as hooked as many teens I’ve met. So I feel comfortable – as her stand-in mom – with her use of her phone. Today’s phones – or maybe we should call them what they really often are, mini-computers – can cause major problems for parents. My sister finally reached her breaking point on a trip to Costa Rica or somewhere exotic with her two sons, ages 16 and 21, who spent every waking minute (and apparently “sleeping” minutes, too) texting their girlfriends. She finally told them she wouldn’t take them on trips anymore if they were going to do that. I don’t believe the three of them have been on a trip since.
These questionable behaviors aren’t limited to teens. I recently visited a Denver elementary school and listened in on (couldn’t help it, really) a conversation in the office between a member of the staff and a boy, probably in fourth grade, who had called or texted his grandparents saying he was feeling sick and asked them to come get him. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well with the school staff because he hadn’t told his teacher or the school nurse that he felt bad. Meanwhile, the grandparents were on the way to school.
This brings me to another point. We can’t pin all this on kids. A teacher told me it’s often parents who text their kids during the school day. Who gave the boy in the above example a phone? Who told him it was OK to “phone home” during the school day? (OK, I’ve got to admit some guilt here. I have actually texted my teen during the school day, assuming she wouldn’t look at it until lunch-time or a break. My bad!)
So when should a kid get a phone? Read this great advice from two EdNews Parent experts who answer a parent’s question about whether to get a fourth-grader a phone. You get the perspective of a cop who catches Internet predators and a child psychologist. Based on these comments, I can tell you I will be holding out as long as humanly possible to get my 8-year-old a phone. Maturity – or lack thereof – remains a big issue for us.
EdNews Parent also has lots of other great information about the dangers posed to kids on the Internet and how to keep them safe. Check out this post for general tips on Internet safety.
Wonder if sexting is real or more media hype? In this post, a Jeffco investigator says it is indeed real.
One study found a link between chronic texting and sex. (Parents, sorry to give you even more to worry about!)
Feel like you’re falling behind with today’s technology? You’re certainly not alone. Check out these tips for parents at risk of tumbling headfirst into the digital divide.
Worried your son or daughter may be addicted to the Internet? Learn what this expert has to say in this helpful post.
And please share your experiences and advice with us all, as we try to keep up with the latest best thing online that our kids figured out a year ago.
Julie Poppen editsEdNews Parent, a nonprofit-funded website and newsletter targeting Colorado parents that focuses on healthy schools, teaching and learning, and school safety. Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist most recently with the Rocky Mountain News who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She’s also the mother of a third-grader, host mom to a teenaged foreign exchange student in Boulder Valley schools and regular – though not always perfectly proficient – classroom volunteer.