Kids and Phones

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Should I get my child a phone? This is a topic that inevitably comes up for any parent, and there are certainly pros and cons to consider.

Maturity Level
Children develop and mature at different rates, and having a phone does require a level of responsibility. Does he lose his backpack often, or “forget” to bring home needed books for homework? Does she sometimes get mad or frustrated and throw something? If so, you may want to consider waiting a while.

Why is it being considered?
The “why” of getting her a phone has at least two components. In today’s world, having that connection to your child can be a stress reliever, especially in an emergency situation. Almost all modern phones have GPS, allowing you to use software or free apps to locate your kid (or the phone, if it’s left behind at a friend’s). But the other “why” is: Why does she want a phone? Is it to be able to call or text with friends? Is it a status symbol? Or maybe it’s so he can go on SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, or other social media for hours on end. Be sure that both you and your child are aware of his school’s policies regarding cell phone usage. For more on screen time and teens, click here.

Safety
Remember that today’s smart phones are actually miniature computers, and monitoring the use of the internet by your kids is almost imperative, especially on Social Media. There’s a great article here on that topic as it applies to all children, and especially girls. There are options through most carriers as well as many customizable apps available to monitor and/or block access (and other parental controls) to harmful content; you also have the ability to block downloads through the software already available in many phone brands (Apple’s iCloud, for example).

Phone Costs
Phones range from very basic ($50) to very expensive ($1500+). The cheaper phones are similar to what we had as our first phones: the ability to make and receive calls, and not much more. Unless you have money to burn and your daughter is very responsible, spending $1500 is pretty much out of the question. In my house with three boys, we went with inexpensive smart phones (about $200-$250 at the time) when they turned twelve. Better smartphones are available now in the $100-$200 dollar range. Be SURE to get both a case and a screen protector for the phone, or you <i>will</i> be fixing or replacing it much sooner than you’d like. When buying a case, get one that has some flexibility, instead of hard plastic; they offer more protection. Plastic screen protectors are $3-$5, and a good protector made of glass will run about an additional $5.

Service Costs
This varies greatly by carrier and data service. Most allow an additional phone line with 5-10Gb of data for around $40; some are a little less, and some are a LOT more. You may want to consider a “family plan” now, since these can come with a pretty good discount. If minutes are a concern, you can keep that down by insisting that the phone be kept on WiFi mode, and you can also set limits on data usage per phone with your carrier.

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