When they ask.
Totally kidding, I promise.
Although the moment your child asks for a cell phone is the moment you should start considering one – and there is a lot to consider before getting them one. It’s likely that your child is asking about a cell phone because they see their friends with one. Nowadays, kids stay connected via text and internet and yours probably is looking to as well.
Giving your child a cell phone is a big decision and once you give them one, there is no turning back. Except perhaps as a consequence for negative behaviour, but there’s no “un-giving” of a cell phone.
Today it seems that the popular age of cell phone ownership is 11 years old although some parents will argue that 13 is more appropriate. While there’s no hard answer as to what age to give your child a cell phone, but here are some considerations:
Are they ready for the responsibility?
Cell phones are expensive devices, so you want to make sure your child is responsible enough to take care of it. Having a clear understanding of cause and effect is important in cell phone care – does your child understand what will happen if he or she drops it? Or sits on it? Or dunks it in the toilet?
Pay attention to how well your child takes care of their own possessions. Do they take good care of their toys? Are they careful and gentle with valuable items?
If so, then your child may be ready for the responsibility of a cell phone.
Do they need one or simply want one?
In order to justify the cost of a cell phone, you may want to determine if there is actually a logical need for one. Sure, your kid likely wants to chat with friends and play games but they are capable of doing this without a cell phone. Here are some strong arguments for getting your child a cell phone:
- Your child spends time outside of the home without you.
- Your child walks or travels by themselves.
- Your child stays at home alone.
If only for safety reasons, a cell phone could be important if any of these situations apply to your child.
Do you and your child engage in open and honest communication?
You may be wondering what this has to do with giving your kid a cell phone but if your child is not comfortable talking to you about personal issues, then he or she may not approach you if they see or hear something inappropriate via their phone.
Internet safety is more important now than ever. In a world of cyber-bullying, sexting and stalking, it’s important not only for your child to understand these safety issues but to feel comfortable approaching you about them as well.
Can your child follow cell phone rules?
With great power comes great responsibility, and your child must be prepared to follow the rules. Many parents nowadays draft what is known as the “Cell Phone Contract” that there child must sign that details specific rules for cell phone ownership.
The rules depend on what sorts of limitations and expectations you want your child to adhere to but here are some ideas you can add into the contract:
- The phone belongs to the parents. You paid for it, so technically it is your property. This reserves you the right to remove the cell phone if necessary.
- No Facebook until your child is 13 years old. This is stated in the Facebook guidelines and registering requires that the user be of 13 years of age or older.
- The phone stays in the main rooms of the house. No using the phone in the bedrooms. This is to protect your child by being able to monitor their online activities.
- No communicating with people your child doesn’t know in real life. This could be fellow online gamers or other users of applications your child uses.