You likely never had the option of a cellphone as a child, but your kids likely have several classmates with a phone of their own. The decorative covers and cellphones that come in a rainbow of colors fuel a child's desire to have one of her own. Weighing the pros and cons of a cellphone helps you decide if it's time to add your child to the family cellphone plan.
A cellphone gives your child a way to get help quickly if she has an emergency when she is on her own. If your child is rarely alone, a cellphone for emergencies isn't usually a necessity. A child who walks by herself or stays at home alone until her parents get home is a prime candidate for a phone -- especially if you no longer have a land line phone in your house. If she gets hurt or is approached by someone she doesn't know, she can call 911. She can call you if someone knocks on the door while she's home alone.
When your child keeps a cellphone with her, you have instant access to her at all times. As your child gains independence, you might allow her to go to a friend's house after school or participate in extracurricular activities. Even though she is becoming more responsible, you still need to know where she is. With one call or text to her cellphone, you find out if she is safe and where she said she would be. Your child can also reach you if she is at school or another location where there aren't public phones available. When she needs a ride or needs to let you know where she is, the cellphone becomes a convenient accessory.
Despite the safety benefits, cellphones also come with certain dangers that put your child at risk. Phones are often a distraction for kids, causing them to pay little attention to what's going on around them. If your child is texting or playing a game while she walks home from school, she may walk in front of a car or not notice that someone is following her. With social media access on many phones, your child is exposed to cyberbullying. She may also reveal her location without realizing it because of location-sharing apps. Some parents also worry about the radiation exposure with cellphone use. The research is limited on how those radio waves affect people, but parents often worry about an increased risk of tumors.
Many cellphones come with games and Internet access. While entertaining and appealing to kids, those activities encourage your child to be sedentary. Sitting around playing cellphone games isn't a healthy way for your child to spend her time. She misses out on valuable active play time. Keeping games and Internet access off the phone is an option that allows your child to make calls without too much sedentary time.
An additional cellphone in the house means a higher cellphone bill to fit into your budget. Most cellphone companies offer family plans that help you control costs, but you will have to share minutes and text message packages with your child. If she's only using the phone for emergencies or to keep in touch with you, the sharing of minutes shouldn't be an issue, but a child who is a social butterfly can quickly burn through your minutes. Exceeding the monthly limit adds extra charges. If your child doesn't take care of her cellphone, you could have the added expense of buying a new one.