Rest assured that if your young teenager has asked you to get him or her a cell phone, you are in good company. The number of parents weighing the pros and cons of buying a cell phone for their kids has been growing exponentially as of late. According to a study by The Yankee Group, more than 50% of 13 to 17-year-olds today own wireless phones.
Maturing in this day and age, today's teens are accustomed to being in constant contact and having instant access to information. As more and more of their peers get their first cell phones, teens already highly concerned with fitting in may feel particularly left behind without a cell phone of their own. As their children near their early teens and start asking (perhaps begging may be a more appropriate term?) for their first cell phone, parents have a decision to make based on what they think is best for their children and their family.
Kids and Cell Phones: What Parents Like
On one hand, parents see a cell phone as a valuable way to be in touch with their children in case of emergencies big and small. If your daughter's soccer practice is running late or if you are stuck in traffic on your way to picking her up, a cell phone can let her reach you or vice versa. A cell phone equipped with GPS technology also enables you to monitor your kid's whereabouts at all times.
Many parents also see a cell phone for kids as a valuable tool to help teach their children how to handle an additional responsibility. The size of the wireless bill, the list of phone calls and whether the child stays in touch when he or she is supposed to are all things that can be used by parents to teach accountability.
The Main Concerns About Getting Kids Their Own Cell Phones
On the liability side, a cell phone can give children freedom to communicate with anyone, posing similar risks as the Internet--text messaging from strangers, cyber bullying, calls to or from unwanted parties or simply excessive distractions. Then there is the more mundane factor of cost: since children do not yet fully understand the value of money, they can easily rack up cell-phone bills of jaw-dropping proportion--unless some sensible precautions are put into place. Some children also have an unfortunate tendency to misplace things.
Cell Phones for Kids: Rules and Responsibility
So, is it thumbs up or thumbs down? As with most issues pertaining to parenting and education, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Parents need to consider whether their child is ready to take on the responsibility of a wireless phone, while being themselves prepared for the task of educating and monitoring the child on cell phone rules.
Parents who are leaning towards buying a cell phone for their child way may find the following suggestions helpful:
Be completely upfront with the child about cell phone rules and etiquette (e.g. no texting or talking in class and at the dinner table)
Talk with children about the costs of cell phone use, and consider having children pay for part of their phone bills or for overages over an agreed upon amount
Limit the cell phone's capabilities to exclude the Internet, video games, text messaging or other features that may be too distracting or costly
Closely monitor the bill so as to always know who the child is communicating with
Select a phone specifically designed to have the features both children and parents want
Ready to start looking?
Have you decided to take the plunge and start looking around for a cell phone that will make both you and your children happy? We've compiled a list of some of the best phones for kids complete with hands-on videos and a feature comparisons chart.
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