Do you remember when our children clamored for wooden toy trains or cute stuffed animals?
Fast forward a few years and now we find our kids transitioning between childhood and the teen years. Instead of asking for new booster packs of their favorite trading cards, we now hear heartfelt begging for cellphones. This unique stage of development finds our children giving up their favorite childhood toys in favor of “grown up” gadgets and devices.
While our sons and daughters plead their cases, it ultimately boils down to us deciding if they are ready to handle this responsibility. Before we hand our children unlimited access to the world of texting, selfies, and social media, we need to carefully consider several factors influencing tween cell phone ownership.
Deciding if a Tween is Ready for Cellphone Ownership
A lot has changed in a few decades, and cellphones are almost essential in today’s society. We are living in an increasingly digital age and it is revolutionizing the way we exchange ideas. It sounds strange, but we live in a world where public phones are unheard of and payphones no longer exist. As our kids become more independent and involved in extracurricular activities, a cellphone can be a valuable tool in our parenting arsenal.
Many of our children are already connected at high rates on social media and other digital outlets on the Internet. We need to consider that 75 percent of our tweens and children have access to similar devices and “smart” technology. Children may be using cellphones and digital devices at high rates, but it doesn’t mean they possess the skills needed for ownership.
Ask yourself the following questions to help decide if a tween is mature enough to handle the responsibility that accompanies cell phone ownership:
- Why does my child want or need a cellphone?
- Is my child able to properly care for his or her belongings?
- Does my son or daughter show mature judgment when encountering peer pressure or conflicts?
- Have we taught our child social media etiquette?
- Will my child understand the appropriate uses for a cellphone?
- Can my child grasp the permanency of the Internet?
Utilizing Prepaid Phone Plans
Deciding that a child is ready for a cellphone can be daunting, but after the decision is made one option to consider is prepaid phone plans. This is an ideal option for many families, because many cell phone service providers are no longer offering unlimited data plans and tweens are notorious for eating through data at high rates. By using prepaid plans, you can avoid long term commitments and your tween will not surprise you with heart attack-inducing bills. This method is ideal for parents who are wanting to get tweens started on the road to digital citizenships without worrying about costs.
Developing a Technology Contract
No matter what plan or phone option you choose, an important factor in setting tweens up for success is implementing a technology contract. As a family, draft a contract that specifically defines expectations, acceptable behaviors, and consequences for cell phone ownership. This document will allow everyone to be on the same page when it comes to cellphone usage and prevent disagreements down the road.
Teaching Social Media Etiquette
In a world pregnant with cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, and oversharing, it is essential that our sons and daughters understand social media etiquette. They need to have the manners and social skills to function in a digital society while protecting their personal information. A good rule of thumb is to teach children to only post items or comments that they would feel comfortable with their grandparents viewing.
Staying on Top of A Tween’s Cellphone Activity
Finally, one factor parents must consider is how they will monitor a child’s cellphone activity. This is especially important for young users, like our tweens. They are just starting to navigate cell phones and the power they hold in their hands. Throw in a few hormone surges with normal teenage angst and you have the recipe for disaster.
Parents need to check in on a child’s activity from time to time, know the sites they visit, who their friends are, and if they are encountering any questionable people online. In the beginning, you may want to do this regularly, but as a child ages and shows responsibility, you can ease up on tracking a tween’s cellphone activity. Children need our guidance to learn the skills needed to safely use their devices.
What factors do you consider when it comes to allowing tweens the privilege of owning a cellphone?
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.
Publication date: April 6, 2016