But even if the school allows students to have phones, this doesn’t mean that your student should have one. You’ll need to consider how responsible your child is with other things at school, as well. After all, you don’t want to be the parent of the kid who causes a ban to take place, right?
Want vs. Needs
Does your child really need a mobile phone, or does he just want one because other kids have them? Some kids get mobile phones as early as first or second grade. To us, this seems a bit silly, since children are seldom (if ever) left alone at that age. What use would they have for a mobile phone when supervising adults are present all the time?
However, if your child is very responsible with other tasks and not prone to trouble, perhaps a mobile phone could be considered a reward at this stage in the game. Giving a youngster a mobile phone as a reward for doing well could allow him to take on extra responsibility and encourage personal growth.
If your child is involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, then there could be a definite need for a mobile phone. Perhaps you do a lot of driving to team practice, club meetings and the like. Instead of waiting out in your car for the event to be over, you could stay at home until your child calls for you to come and pick him up.
Keeping Track While Giving Them Their Space
While it’s certainly not a necessity, once children start to get more socially active, a mobile phone becomes a way for them to express themselves and socialize with their friends. Many of us experienced something similar to this when we were children, but we just used the good old land telephone line. Today’s tweens and teens use texting in about the same manner.
It’s never been easier to track your children than it is today with smartphones. Enabled with GPS chips, many of today’s smartphones have third-party apps such as GadgetTrak for just such an occasion. By providing a phone to your out-and-about youngster, you can still keep tabs on them while they enjoy a modicum of freedom.
Remember, Safety First
There are two safety issues to consider when it comes to mobile phones. The first is a positive for cell phones: They can provide a safety mechanism for your child to get in touch with you or other figures of authority (such as the police or fire department) in the event of an emergency. This is an excellent reason for any child to have a mobile phone.
The second safety issue applies to smartphones equipped with Internet access, which has little or no parental oversight. In this case, Internet safety needs to be a topic of discussion when giving your kid a mobile phone.
In addition, there is a new form of texting that goes above and beyond what we used to do with those land lines. It’s called sexting, and it’s not only a display of inappropriate behavior, but in many states, it is illegal. It’s essentially distribution of child pornography, even if that child is the one doing the distributing. So if you’re giving a phone to your teenager, the topic of sexting will be a must-have (if possibly difficult) conversation.
The Bottom Line
We didn’t give you a definitive answer to this question because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the right time to give a mobile phone to you child. Responsibility plays a key role, but so does actual need. Mobile phones can provide a convenient method of communication, safety and even fun for your child. But in the wrong hands, they can be costly to replace and provide access to materials and people you may not want your children to interact with just yet.
If you do choose to give your child a phone, make sure the phone is age-appropriate (after all, a third-grader probably doesn’t need an iPhone). Consider all of the pros and cons, and you’ll come up with the decision that is right for you and your family.