You might be considering getting a cell phone for your child, but perhaps you're unsure whether she's ready to handle the responsibility. One-fifth of children already own a cell phone at the age of 8, according to a 2011 survey conducted by Bridgewater State University for the Massachusetts Aggression Research Center. Determining when your child is ready for a cell phone is contingent on her maturity level, family circumstances and whether she needs one, according to author Scott Steinberg, as cited on the Parenting website. When the time is right, a cell phone can provide your child with safety and security, and give you peace of mind.
If your child finds himself in a potentially dangerous situation, such as being approached by a stranger, being followed home from school or suddenly becoming ill, having a cell phone can be crucial in obtaining help. Using his cell phone, your child will be able to quickly call you, the proper authorities or emergency responders, according to Family Education. You can program specific phone numbers into his cell phone, such as his physician, local police precinct, fire department and 911. Instruct your child not to wait until something bad actually happens, but immediately call for help whenever he feels threatened, frightened or unwell.
Cell phones allow you to stay connected with your child at all times. You can call to ask a question, change plans, remind him of an appointment, tell him you'll be late picking him up from baseball practice, offer support during his first day of school or simply say that you love him. Cell phones can also be a convenient communication tool in your home -- when your child is in his bedroom, a text message reminds him to do his homework or that it's dinnertime. Your child's cell phone also helps to ease homesickness while he's away at camp or spending the weekend at Grandma's house.
Even a short walk to school, a neighborhood store or a friend's house can be confusing to a child, and he might lose his way. A cell phone with GPS navigation can provide him with easy-to-follow directions while he's on route, according to Wired. The GPS shows him exactly where he is at all times and guides him to the destination with an easy-to-follow interactive map. You can program the GPS with his destination, and it will provide directions to the location and also the route back home. You might say, "I know you've walked to Joey's house before, but I still want you to follow the map on your phone."
Providing your child with a cell phone allows you to always know where he is. Most cell phone carriers offer family locator services that allow you to constantly monitor your child's location through interactive satellite maps on your own cell phone or computer, according to Wired. The family locator service will also send you a text message alert when your child reaches his destination and when he leaves it. And it works both ways -- your child will be able to track your location, such as when you're late picking him up at school and he can see on the map that you're on your way.
Responsible Cell Phone Use
Before buying your child a cell phone, discuss cell phone responsibility and lay the ground rules, recommends pediatrician Gwen O’Keeffe, as cited on the Time website. Inform him that he'll be expected to follow the rules for cell phone use at his school, including turning it off during classes and study periods. List the hours he won't be allowed to use the cell phone at home, such as while doing homework and at bedtime. If he receives any sexually explicit or inappropriate photos, messages or phone calls, he should immediately report them to you and a school official. Warn your child to never read or send text messages while walking or crossing the street. Stress that the rules for cell phone use will be strictly enforced and if he violates any of them, his cell phone privileges will be removed.