Although some teenagers see cell phones as fashion accessories or gaming devices, the basic safety conferred by continual access to a telephone is reason enough for every teenager to own one. A teen with a cell phone can never find himself without an opportunity to call parents or emergency services should the need arise. Cell phones also give parents the ability to check in on teenagers at parties or after-school events. For teens with a history of rule breaking, some cell phones double as GPS devices, allowing parents to confirm that the teenager is where he is supposed to be.
The most important reason for teenagers to have cell phones is safety. Even a cell phone that doesn't have a current service contract can dail 911. Any operational cell phone, regardless of brand or service, can dial 911 at no cost at any time. This means, even if a teenager has lost cell phone privileges, she can be given a cell phone with no service contract in order to call emergency services if necessary.
Cell phones also keep teenagers safe in social situations where they might need a parent or friend's help. For example, if a teenager has been drinking and realizes that she can't drive safely, a cell phone allows her to call a parent and face a scolding in exchange for a safe ride home. Without a cell phone, she might have to make a choice between driving drunk or sleeping in an unsafe situation at a stranger or distant acquaintance's home.
Communication with Parents
Teenagers can also use cell phones to communicate with parents. If a teen has asked to go to a party or event, a parent might give permission only on the condition that the teenager use a cell phone to call home every hour and confirm she's safe and will be home by curfew. Without a cell phone, the teenager in question could claim she was unable to find a telephone to check in at home.
Cell phones also help if the teenager needs to ask a parent for information while filling out permission forms, job applications or other paperwork.
Cell phones give teenagers a measure of independence without compromising their safety or putting them at risk of becoming lost and unable to reach their parents. Teenagers need to experience independence and problem solving in order to prepare them for adult life. A teen with a cell phone has a safety net to lend her confidence as she explores the world independently. One can safely drop even a fairly young teen off in a safe area of the nearest big city and encourage her to explore on her own for a day so long as she has a cell phone and a little bit of spending money. This experience encourages teens to make decisions, budget, read maps and practice other life skills without ever putting them in danger.
Communication with Friends
Although parents may worry that teens communicate too much with friends and too little with their family, the importance of socialization for teenagers can't be discounted. The adolescent years are the best time to learn how to make and sustain friendships. It becomes much more difficult to socialize when adult responsibilities take over, leaving little time for friends. Cell phones allow teenagers to communicate with their friends regularly, encouraging them to take time to sustain and nurture relationships with friends.
In most circumstances, parents should resist the temptation to monitor their teenagers excessively. The opportunity to make mistakes and face the consequences is an important part of adolescence. However, if a particular teen has demonstrated a tendency to defy rules that are important to his safety and development, some cell phone companies offer GPS tracking programs that can inform a parent of the teenager's location. Combine this with a requirement that the teenager call home at predetermined intervals and a parent can reliably monitor an errant teen without physically following her to work and school every day.