Is your child ready to have a cell phone? He may be begging for one—and you can certainly see the convenience of being able to reach him anytime—but think twice (or even thrice!) before handing him one.
First of all, cell phones are expensive, and so are crazy-high cell phone bills. Second of all, cell phones also allow your child to communicate with a lot of other people, including those you would never allow within a 10 meter radius of your home or your life. So you still need to assess if your child is mature enough to handle this power—and set very clear rules. Here are some tips.
Can he take care of his things?
Your child needs to be able to appreciate the value of what he owns, and be able to take care of his things without daily nagging and shouting. So before you give him an expensive gadget, train him to clean up after himself and be aware of his valuables when he’s outside of the house. Needless to say, if he has lost more library books than you can count, and can’t even remember where he put his glasses, then he’s not ready for a cell phone.
Can he keep track of expenses?
Many cell phones are given free with phone plans, because phone companies know that they’ll make a killing on call and text charges. So one of the big talks you need to have with your child is his monthly Cellphone Budget. How much is he allowed to spend? What happens if he goes over that amount? He needs to feel the consequences, because this is a great lesson in money management. He will need to pay it from his allowance, or earn it by doing extra chores.
Set rules for sharing info
Who can he call and text, and who can he gives his number to? What information is he allowed to give? Giving a child a cell phone dramatically increases his freedom to communicate with people outside the family circle. Set the boundaries early on, and check the phone frequently for any unusual texts or numbers.
Set rules for use
Cell phones should not interrupt family communication and bonding. Ban the cell phone at the dinner table, and set a ‘curfew’ for calls and text messages. Since many new models also allow downloading and games, limit cell phone time the way you would Internet time.
For more tips on setting rules and discipline, read our article on positive parenting.
Photo from telegraph.co.uk
We got my son a Tracfone when he was still pretty young, about 8, but he knew all the dangers involved, and with it being a prepaid phone he couldn’t run op our monthly bill.