|With ringtones, games, and cool looking phones, your kids have probably already asked you for a cell phone.
If they haven't asked for a cell phone yet, the new iTunes cell phone from Cingular and Apple, the Motorola ROKR, may get them on their best behavior for a short time as they 'work you' for a cell phone.
Do your kids really 'need' a cell phone though?
If you ask them, the answer is going to be a definitive 'yes,' of course. But their reasoning can be a little shaky, including that:
- cell phones are cool
- all of her friends already have cell phones
- it will allow her to call when she is going to be late
- she can use it in an emergency
Of course, buying something just because it is cool, unless you are doing it as a special treat or reward, is never a really good reason. And if all of your child's friends have cell phones, then she really doesn't need one, does she? After all, if she is going to be late, she can just use one of their cell phones to call you. And does a phone call really excuse a teen from being late?
The last reason is a good one though. Having a cell phone to use in an emergency is probably the only good reason to get one. Especially once your teen is driving, a cell phone can be essential in case her car breaks down, etc.
Younger children can also benefit from having a cell phone from a safety perspective if they spend a lot of time in after school activities, go to child care after school, or spend time with another parent on the weekends. In addition to being used in an emergency, a cell phone can be practical and an extra convenience, for example if you need to pick your child up early or if baseball practice is running late.
Teens and Cell Phones
As already mentioned, if your teen is driving, they should probably have a cell phone for safety reasons. Before that, you might consider a cell phone if it seems practical and your child is responsible enough to take care of the phone. Also consider that like driving, a cell phone can be a good 'privilege' that your child has to earn.
Your teen is probably going to want a regular cell phone, but do consider setting some limits, like on the number of minutes that can be used, sending text messages, downloading ringtones, and even web access, or you might find that your bill is a lot larger than you think at the end of the month. You might even have your child 'turn in the phone' once they get home so that they don't stay up late talking to friends when they should be studying or sleeping.
First Cell Phone
The question of whether younger kids need cell phones is even more controversial.
If you do get your younger child a first cell phone, you might consider one that is specifically designed for younger children and which have a lot of parental controls and limits in place.
Specifically, many of these phones:
- limit who can call the phone
- limit who can be called with the phone
- don't have internet access, instant messaging, or chat capabilities
- may have GPS tracking so that you literally know where your child is at all times
- have plans with prepaid minutes so your kids can't go over
These types of cell phones for kids include the Firefly Phone, Wherifone GPS Locator Phone (not available yet though), and the TicTalk Mobile Phone (which also doesn't seem to be available yet).
The TicTalk Mobile Phone has the added benefit of being able to be configured on the Internet and being able to set at what times the phone can be used. So you can turn it off after your child's bedtime or make sure the phone can't ring while your child is in school!
Do Your Kids Need A Cell Phone?
In most cases, whether or not to get your child a cell phone, especially if they are a teenager, is going to be like any other parenting decision. Things to consider include:
- does your child really 'need' a cell phone?
- can you afford a cell phone?
- is your child responsible enough to take care of a cell phone?
You can also consider the following pros and cons and add your own before making a decision. For a younger child, I would wait until the GPS phones were available. That feature alone, especially if they work better than the current GPS watches would make it a worth while purchase for many parents.
Kids and Cell Phone Issue
||• Hidden Charges
||• Increased Independence (Who is your child talking to?)
|• Can Still Set Limits
||• Internet Access Dangers
|• Can Be A Tool To Teach Your Child Responsibility
||• Responsibility Required So They Don't Lose Phone and Keep It Charged, Etc.
|• May Not Be Too Expensive If You Set Limits and Add Your Kids On To An Existing Plan