Technology A-Z
The Internet
Tech Hardware
Tech Software
Video Games
Protecting Your Children
Getting Help
The Online Mom Network

Learn about The Online Mom Network
Join The Online Mom Network
How Do I Become An Online Mom?

The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Mommy, Can I Have A Cell Phone...?

Be prepared... the question is coming sooner than you think!

By Terri Hunter-Davis

Apparently I am a bad mother. My 10-year-old daughter does not have her own cell phone. Never mind that she doesn't travel solo and has not been anywhere for more than five minutes without access to someone else's phone. Never mind that her friends often call our house (interestingly, she rarely makes calls on her own). Poor, deprived tween — she needs a cell phone and it's all my fault!

What, you don't think I'm so bad? Thanks, I needed to hear that.

Truth is, our decision to firmly say "not yet" is not unusual. But neither is it necessarily right, at least not for every family. The choice to allow — or not allow — a pre-teen to have his or her own cell phone is an individual one. It has much to do with responsibility, maturity, need and circumstances.

When? When? When?
These days, it's not uncommon for 9- and 10-year-olds to start clamoring for their own phone. The Center on Media and Child Health reports that 54 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds will have their "own" cell phone within the next three years.

But children are individuals: one sibling may desperately want one; another sibling may not care a whit. Chances are, your child started forming phone habits much earlier, starting with weekly babbling to Grandma. You'll probably have a good idea if your child will want a cell phone long before she or he asks for one. Start thinking of your answers ahead of time, and you'll have a much easier time when the topic finally comes up!

Need vs. want
Your definition of "need" will almost certainly differ from your child's. You may think your child needs a cell phone to let you know she arrived safely at her swim lesson. She may think she needs the phone to talk to her friend after that swim lesson. And there's always the "need" that arises when a classmate, neighbor or teammate has one, too.

In the eyes of many parents, the desire for a cell phone is little more than the junior version of keeping up with the Joneses. Using my daughter's social circle as an example, out of about 40 friends and acquaintances (all in the 9- to 12-year-old age bracket), there are perhaps four or five who have cell phones. The strident pleas for a phone increase exponentially when she's around the kids who have them. Most of her friends' parents agree that there's usually not much need for a 10-year-old to have one. (Though the ones who want to ban phones (and boys!) till their daughters reach, say 30, may have a tough road ahead!)

However, the 8-12 age bracket is a time when many children learn – and earn – more independence. Some older ones are allowed to take public transit to or from school (especially middle schoolers, who may have to travel some distance); many are allowed to venture a few blocks to go to the store or library. Some might go from school to a nearby after-school class; others might carpool with friends to a team practice. Some parents feel more comfortable if their child can contact them with ease. I grew up with the mantra, "Call me when you get there!" It's much harder to find a pay phone these days, so a cell phone could be considered a legitimate need.

Tweens who may have two "homes" — divorced parents with joint custody or children who spend significant time with grandparents are a couple of common examples — might benefit from having just one contact number. And some divorced parents find it simpler to contact their children via cell when they're in the other parent's custody.

Does a child "need" to chat on the phone? Parents have debated this for generations, since the days of an "extension" or a second phone line in an older child's room. Sometimes eliminating fights over a single land line is worth the effort of getting a second cell phone, and instructing a child how to use it responsibly.

Use it, don't lose it
One common fear many parents share is that Junior or Princess will lose the phone. Certainly a lost cell means trouble — sometimes expensive trouble, if it falls into the wrong hands. But parents would be wise to consider how careful their child is with other important things. Do glasses, keys, sweaters and backpacks go missing? If consistently not, then your child probably exercises a certain amount of care with belongings, and a phone is likely to be no exception. If consistently yes … well, you can figure that one out. If your child really needs a phone but you have a legitimate fear it will disappear, you'll need to take other measures — keeping it strapped to a backpack, perhaps — and start working on those personal responsibility issues!

Another option is to consider a pre-paid phone — at least if it's lost, you've limited the financial damage. Family-friendly providers include Kajeet and Firefly; many major providers also feature pre-paid plans.

Speaking of limits
You'll need to set them. You would with a land line; don't slack off because your own phone time isn't compromised. The easiest limits are the strictest: call when you get to a destination, as instructed; call if there's an emergency. (If you spell out these limits before getting the phone, you might quash the desire to have one altogether!)

Eventually your child will want regular chatting. And ringtones. And texting. And games. And Web browsing. It's a slippery slope. Don't take the fall: even mature tweens can be sorely tempted by having the Web right in their backpack or back pocket. Major plans, such as AT&T, offer services that restrict what your tween can do on a cell phone, such as limiting text messages, blocking numbers or filtering content.

If you wouldn't allow land-line calls after a certain time, you'll need to make your child understand that limit applies to cell phone calls too. Be vigilant that your youngster isn't texting or talking under the covers when she or he should be doing homework or sleeping. Make sure that it stays in the kitchen or family room overnight when it's on charge. Remember too, that cell phones can be a serious distraction at school. Generally they are not allowed to be on (even on vibrate) during school hours, and often will be confiscated if found in use.

It's up to you
When all is said and done, only you can decide if your child is ready and in need of a cell phone. There's no one answer. But one thing is certain: when you're both ready, there will be plenty of talk — and not on the phone — to make sure your child's phone use is a positive rite of passage!

Terri Hunter-Davis is a veteran writer, editor and designer in both print and online media. Her areas of expertise include family, lifestyle and shelter topics. Terri lives in San Francisco with her husband and increasingly tech-savvy 6- and 10-year-old daughters.

Thank you for submitting your comment. Your comment will appear on the site after it has been reviewed by site moderators!
Post a Comment:
Comments (max 500 characters):

Permalink | Print | Email

Share this article!
Partner with Online Mom Media
Online Mom Media specializes in building powerful communities of influencers! [read on]
Special Twitter Event
Join @theonlinemom this Thursday at 9pm ET as we introduce Thrively, a fun and interactive family web site! #Thrively
[read on]
Join the BUZZ!
Join @theonlinemom and friends this Friday at 12 noon PT as we look at Simplifying Mobile Tech. Great prizes! #VZWBuzz [read on]
The Online Mom Blog
Connecting Your Mobile Lifestyle
[read on]
Cómo encontrar en línea las mejores ofertas
Visite La Online Mom en Español! [read on]
Stacey Ross on The Online Mom
Catch up on the digital lifestyle with Stacey Ross!
[read on]
PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One: Parental Controls
Which of the new gaming consoles offers better parental supervision? [read on]
How To Make the Most of Those Daily Deals
Take a closer look at those daily deals to make sure you're getting a bargain!
[read on]
Watch Out! Your Wristband Is Tracking You…
New ways to monitor two of the most important elements that factor into our overall health: exercise and sleep [read on]
How To Beat Spam with Disposable E-Mail Addresses
There's an alternative to giving out your online information (or turning into a digital recluse): the disposable e-mail!
[read on]
Managing Your Online Reputation
There are some simple steps we can take to safeguard our online reputations [read on]
7 Apps for Finding Stuff Online
Loking to buy and sell online? Your smartphone can help!
[read on]
How to Manage Your Cell Phone Bill
Don't be overwhelmed by that cell phone bill. We offer 7 tips that can help [read on]
7 Social Networking Tips for Graduates
About to graduate? It's time to clean up those social networking accounts!
[read on]
The Best Apps for Staying in Shape
10 great apps for turning your smartphone or tablet into your workout buddy! [read on]
7 Steps to Smartphone Safety
Buying that first smartphone for your child? Make safety a top priority!
[read on]
10 Essential Apps for the Busy Mom
Turn your smartphone into your very own personal assistant! [read on]
Tweens and Facebook:
Do you think children under the age of 13 should be allowed on Facebook?

Not Sure

© 2011 the online mom, all rights reserved | site map ABOUT     MEET THE TEAM     CONTACT US     ADVERTISE     PRESS     PRIVACY     LEGAL
As you may have guessed, it is made of titanium and some stainless steel¡ªthe case is titanium and the rolex replica sale is stainless steel. The dial is brown, the watch hands are silver-toned, and there is a date window at the four o¡¯clock position. The sapphire case protects the breitling replica sale from water damage up to 30 meters. Synergy means cooperative action. This replica watches uk combines the best of the old and the new to deliver something uniquely modern. All of the classic elements are there. It has the sleek and stylish dial of the replica watches uk, the concave dot at the 12 o¡¯clock hour, and the Swiss quartz movement. But the Sapphire Synergy has something few breitling replica sale offer, a rubber wristband. Why rubber? Well, it¡¯s not a sport rolex replica sale, so using it outdoors is out of the question. But the informal band gives it a more casual look and feel, which can be quite appealing to the modern male.