When I first thought about writing this post my answer was a resounding NO!! However, considering my self an ineffectual person I decided to ask some other parents what they thought. So I posted on Facebook asking when other parents allowed their children to have cell phones. I got answers from 6 years old to college age. The reasons were nearly as varied as the ages. So I found myself still asking:
Should my preteen have a cell phone?
I must admit that I am still split on this one. Part of me points to the fact that we never had cell phones when we were kids. Heck, I was in my 20s and married before cell phones became main stream and I got my first one. However, we are living in a different world than when I was a kid. So, how would I answer this question now?
You see I think that, ideally, a preteen does not need a cell phone. I feel that my 11 year old son should never be anywhere without a responsible adult who I know and trust and whose cell phone number I have. If this is true, then he doesn’t need a cell phone. At this point in our lives he rides to and from school with my dad. The rest of the time he is, usually, with us. However, now that he has entered middle school I know that this will not alway be the case. Coming soon will be youth events and trips that take him out from under our protection. For this reason I am beginning to rethink my stance on this subject.
So, should my preteen have a cell phone?
The world is crazy and sometimes even dangerous. If your preteen walks to or from school, has to walk alone an extended length to catch the bus, or is sometimes left alone after school or other activities, then you might need to consider getting them a cell phone.
Good reasons to get your preteen a phone:
- Safety: This is really the main one. If your preteen is in situations that might not be the safest, then give it some thought. However, I would first recommend that you try to adjust your life so that you can be there to keep your preteen safe instead of the cell phone.
- Convenience: This is not a strong argument, but in some cases may be valid. One thing that I heard in my survey was that kids were involved in after school activities that had varying end times. Rather than sit there for an extended time waiting or risk their child being left alone they got them a cell phone to call when they were done.
BAD reasons to get your preteen a cell phone:
- They want one: our kids will want all kinds of things that they don’t need or that might even be bad for them. We were the same way when we were kids. If there is not a LEGITIMATE reason that they NEED a cell phone, then don’t get them one.
- Their friends have them: This goes back to the old saying, “If your friends were all jumping off a bridge would you?” There are lots of things that my kid’s friends do or have that I am not going to allow in my house. If this is the best argument my child can come up with then the discussion is over before it even started.
Be Smart! If you do decide to get your preteen a cell phone consider these things:
- Safety: Cell phones can be used for good and for bad. Talk to your kids about this. Make sure they never respond to a text if they don’t know who it is. This could be someone trying to get personal information from them.
- Sexting: We would all like to think that our kids would never take provocative pictures of themselves and send them to others. They certainly would take sexual or nude/partially nude picture of themselves. Talk to your kids about this. I would hope that modesty would be reason enough for them not to do this, but it may not be. Explain to them that what they might intend for just a certain “special person” to see could end up being seen by many more people. Never send anything you wouldn’t want your parents or the rest of the world to see.
- Smart phones: I know that this one will probably make me unpopular, but NO PRETEEN OR TEEN NEEDS A SMART PHONE. There is no reason that anyone in this age group would need such ready access to the internet and all the potential problems that come with it. There is so much bad that can be done with a cell phone, why risk it.
- Responsibility: Remind your preteen that having a cell phone comes with a great deal of responsibility. They must take care of it.
- Privilege: Having a cell phone at any age is privilege, but especially as a preteen or even a teen. Remind them that privileges can, and will, be taken away if need be.
- Check out: Consider using a check in/check out system for your preteen. If they are going somewhere where they might need the phone allow them to check it out. Then when they return they check it back in. This way they have it when they need it, but not all the time.
- Parental controls/monitoring: Cell phone providers have programs that allow you to monitor your child’s cell phone usage. Check these out and use the ones that fit your situation.
At the end of the day you have to decide when the right time is for your child to have a cell phone. I hope that these thoughts are helpful as you consider when the right time is.