Should Kids Have Cell Phones?
Smartphones are an ever-present fact of daily life. At some point, your child will likely have a cell phone all their own. But determining when to give your child a cell phone can be tricky.
There are many valid reasons why even a young child can benefit from limited cell phone usage. But downsides exist, too. Let’s take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of cell phone use for kids, as well as age-specific guidelines.
What Age Do Kids Get Their First Cellphone?
A recent survey asked 2,290 parents about the technology they’d purchased for their children. The results were very surprising. Fifty-three percent of kids received their first cell phone when they were just six years old.
Thirty-six percent of parents said the main reason they gave their young child a phone was for security and peace of mind. They want their child to be able to reach them at any time, and vice versa.
Another quarter of respondents said their main motivation was so the child could keep in regular contact with close friends and extended family. Additionally, 20 percent of parents said their child’s cell phone was used to “keep up with friends at school.”
Benefits of Having a Cell Phone at a Young Age
Easy Communication Between Parent and Child
The main benefit is that parents can easily reach their kids at just about any moment. Plus, tracking apps can be installed so the child’s exact location can always be known.
Limited use cell phones are available. Specifically designed for kids, these phones have limited internet capabilities, number privacy features, quick access to emergency services and more.
Helps Kids Fit in With Peers
Most six-year-olds don’t feel they need a cell phone in order to fit in with their peers. But for pre-teens and teens, having (or not having) their own cell phone can seem like a huge deal.
Obviously, you don’t want to make parenting decisions based on peer pressure. However, if your teen is the only member of their peer group without a phone of their own, they can feel like an outcast.
Educational Apps Can Help Kids Learn
Kids are usually extremely interested in playing with cell phones. You can use this natural interest to guide kids towards educational apps and games. Younger kids can learn letters, numbers and other basics. Older kids can learn more advanced subjects like new languages and more.
Helps Kids Feel Comfortable with Technology
Phones are designed to be simple and intuitive to use. Young kids can learn the basics of navigating menus, searching for information online and other technology basics. This can help develop an interest in a variety of STEM subjects.
Downsides to Having a Cell Phone at a Young Age
Many people are shocked to learn so many six-year-olds have smartphones. Is using a cell phone even healthy? Before giving your child a cell phone, you’ll want to understand all the potential problems and pitfalls.
Smart devices are a convenient way to surf the internet while resting in bed. But doing so can have a negative effect on your sleep schedule. While this can be an issue for people of any age, kids and teens are especially likely to check their devices throughout the night.
One effective solution is to keep cell phones out of bedrooms at night. This helps kids resist the temptation to stay up late browsing the web and texting with friends. Of course, a good night’s rest is important for everybody, but it’s especially important for growing teens.
Dangers Behind the Wheel
Roughly a quarter of all auto accidents are caused by distracted driving related to cell phone use. That works out to roughly nine death each day. In many ways, driving while texting is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
While no driver is immune from the dangers of texting and driving, teens drivers are especially at risk. This is due to two reasons. First, teens lack experience behind the wheel. Also, their brains haven’t fully developed yet, leading them to believe they can multi-task better than they actually can.
You’ll need to stress to your kids the importance of avoiding cell phone use while driving. Several safe driving apps are available to help. Safe driving apps block messages, track mileage and even send notifications to parents when any safe driving rules are broken.
Potential Online Predators
Unfortunately, predators lurk online, and your child could potentially be at risk. For younger kids, you’ll want to carefully monitor who they’re talking to online. Generally, they should only be communicating with other kids they know personally. There’s rarely a compelling reason for a young child to talk with strangers online.
Pre-teens and teens can be a bit more difficult to monitor. You’ll want to keep them safe while also allowing them some degree of privacy. But make sure they understand the need to avoid posting or giving out any personal information.
Another potential online problem isn’t from strangers but from peers. Cyberbullying involves harassment via text, instant messages, social media pages and more. Remedies for cyberbullying can be tricky but usually parents and school officials will have to get involved.
Aside from concerns about victimization, make sure your kids aren’t acting as bullies themselves. Many parents tend to have a blind spot here, finding it difficult to acknowledge that their children might not be behaving appropriately online.
Should My Child Have a Cell Phone?
There’s no true right answer here. However, cell phones are probably alright for most kids, as long as they’re used responsibly. The benefits typically outweigh the risks. After all, a cell phone can be a literal lifeline, allowing parents and kids to easily communicate no matter where either happens to be.
Just make sure your kids understand not to use their phone while driving. Also, they should keep their personal info closely guarded. You might also want to consider a limited use phone, especially for younger kids.
Kids today have access to more sophisticated technology than at any other time in history. While there are some potential dangers, there are also plenty of positives to consider, too.