I recently came to a point in parenting that I was dreading but knew was inevitable. It was time to buy my tween his first cell phone.
I didn’t think this was going to be an easy process but I was not prepared for how overwhelming it would truly be. I had many questions I needed answers to before we were ready to take this big step. Is he ready to have a phone? Will he understand the responsibility that comes with having a cell phone? How do I protect him from all of the bad things you hear about? What kind of phone do we buy?
After hours, days and weeks of research, I finally felt a little less terrified and more like we were ready to take the plunge. Talking mom to mom, I wanted to share some of the things with you that I learned along the way and will hopefully make your decision much easier!
Here are things to consider.
Is my child ready for his first cell phone?
The average age kids receive their first cell phone is 12. Before you use this as the concrete age your child has to be to have a phone you need to take a few things into consideration. Every kid is different. Some are very mature at a younger age than 12…and some are nowhere near the maturity level they should be at 12.
Think about these questions.
Has your child accepted responsibility for other things in their lives such as chores or homework? Do you trust them with other responsibilities? Are they respectful to their personal property?
You’ll know if they are ready for this step once you start thinking about these questions. After all, you know your child better than anyone.
How do I protect my child from bullying and predators?
This was the one question that kept me awake at night. As parents, our number one job is to protect our children. So how do we willingly expose them to this new world while keeping them safe from it at the same time?
Making sure they are aware and understand what potential dangers you are protecting them from is key. We sat down and discussed different scenarios with our son about what can happen with predators and bullies if he misuses his phone. We walked him through real life situations that have happened to other kids his age. This was an eye opener for him. After our discussion we set the ground rules and we both signed a Mobile Safety Family Agreement that laid these rules out.
This provided several solutions.
- He understands that using his phone responsibly will help keep him safe.
- The Mobile Safety Family Agreement holds him accountable. If he breaks the agreement he learns what consequences are.
- This offers us, as parents, some peace of mind knowing that he is now educated and aware of the realities and responsibilities of having a phone.
- Install location tracking apps
- Restrict website browsing during certain times of day/night
- Block unknown calls and text messages
- Know your child’s passwords
- Become familiar with the sites they visit
- Keep security software up to date
- Set parental controls
What kind of phone do I buy?
How can there be so many options???? This is the part where you will feel incredibly overwhelmed. I promise.
Starting with a basic cell phone is OK! Yes, you will hear the argument that all of their friends have cool smartphones. My go to line in this situation is “I’m not their parent”. This response is guaranteed to come with an eye roll.
The benefits about starting with a basic phone…
1) Of course it is cheaper!
2) It is a great way for your child to prove to you that they are responsible and you can upgrade them to a smartphone once they show you this
3) There are many flip phones to choose from that can still be cool.
If you feel like your child is mature enough and ready to start with a smartphone, got for it! Again, you are the one that knows your kid better than anybody. The iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models are still two of the most popular go-to smartphone choices.
Are you worried about everyday kid wear and tear? Are you imagining them dropping, breaking and trashing the phone? No matter how responsible our kids are this is inevitable. I hate to admit how many times I accidentally drop my phone on a regular basis. The Kyocera DuraForce is an AWESOME phone to prevent this!! This phone is designed to be rugged and used for construction sites. They are not too expensive and work well. Perfect for the rougher kid (and adult).
At the end of the day if you decide that your child is not ready for this step there are other options. The FiLIP smartwatch for kids is a great product for that in between phase! The watch has a GPS locator and 2 buttons which allow your child to call only parents and 911 in an emergency. It is a very cool and easy way to start your kids on tech.
Remember, no answer is wrong on whatever direction you decide to go. Make sure you have all of the facts and most importantly, that you and your child is comfortable and ready for this big step! Good luck!