When Can I Have a Cell Phone? 3 Questions

6 Mar

cell phone

How many of you guys have heard this question?

In our current society, cell phone use is pervasive and only getting more so.  I was thinking about this today while my nurse practitioner student was telling me about a patient and my phone was getting blown up with texts from moms wanting advice, friends with questions and the hospital wanting to know if I was rounding again after my clinic hours.

How did we ever survive without cell phones?  Sometimes I wonder this.

How did my parents ever survive a meal out? I don’t know…even my almost 2 year old asks for “iPad time.”

How did we ever get anywhere?  Google maps is my best friend (which becomes an enemy whenever I forget and leave it running in the background, draining my battery).

As much as you are dependent on your cell phone, it is only natural to assume that your child will ask for one, sooner rather than later.

So, when is the right age?

The answer to this question is complicated…Different families have different needs and there is no one “right” age.  So, instead of putting down an age, I’m going to write a list of questions that you need to discuss as a family prior to buying a phone.

1) What does the child want to use it for?

The answer you want to hear is to call you in emergencies (and you could almost buy in just for that reason).  The real answer is likely to communicate with friends.  So, you should consider this as you purchase…if you only want them to call you for emergencies, only buy a phone with those capabilities.  Your child is likely to put a fight with this, no child wants a phone that can only call mom and dad but that is something you have to decide as a family.  You must also decide if their will be limits to texting, etc.

2) Will you have access to the phone/text messages etc at any time you want?

If you want to monitor what your child is doing/saying you need to set this ground rule up front.  The worst thing you can do is to snoop around and check the child’s phone without their knowledge.  What happens if you do find something that needs to be addressed with them but you didn’t have permission to look at their phone…now you’re in big trouble.

The other issue surrounding this is how to keep it out of the bedroom with them at night.  Staying up in bed texting is becoming a favorite pastime and a huge disrupter of sleep for teenagers.  I suggest considering a time at which the phone is placed in a basket in a neutral area in the house until the next morning.

3) How will you protect them from inappropriate content?

Please, please buy a product that allows you to control what websites, etc that your child’s phone can access (an example is Safe Eyes Mobile…click here for more info).  Unfortunately, one errant click can lead your child to something that is inappropriate.

Finally, I quit judging families a long time ago for buying cell phones for kids who are too young.  There are simply too many variable to know why parents came to the conclusions that they did.  However, by discussing these 3 questions prior to purchasing a child their first phone, hopefully you can avoid a lot future headaches…

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2 Responses to “When Can I Have a Cell Phone? 3 Questions”

  1. Christi B. March 6, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    We LOVE SafeEyes!! My children don’t have cell phones yet, but we have it on our computers and will definitely have it on their phones when they do get them!

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  1. Top 3 Posts for March 2013 | DoctorJSmith - April 2, 2013

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