Cellphones are everywhere and it is common to see kids with their own phones. Since pay phones are obsolete, it can be a great idea to get your child a cellphone so that they can reach you at any time. Especially once they are active in extracurricular activities and building a social life outside the home. How do you choose one? Do you just opt for a smartphone to add to your plan? Before you go the simplest route you can think of, here are some things to consider and options to think about before purchasing a new line.
What Do They Really Need?
The first question every parent should ask is, what do they really need the phone for? Owning a cellphone is a responsibility and you want to meet your child’s needs but also teach them responsibility. If your child is not in middle school yet, it’s a good idea to go the route of minimalist. This phone is to keep in touch with people you approve of. This means the child learns quickly that you can check the contacts list at any given moment and remove contacts that you don’t know or approve of. You can also pre-load the contact lists with parents and family phone numbers. If the child wants to add a friend, they must speak with you about it first.
What Are Your Expectations With Your Child?
This is important to explore. This is a way to set boundaries with your child and teach them values about the respect that they can take into their adulthood. This may mean that they only take the phone to events where you won’t be present. You might decide they have to give you their phone every night when they go to bed. No phone use at mealtimes or at events in public. You might even decide what happens if they lose or break the phone. Deciding ahead of time how a child is granted permission to have a phone and use it appropriately is vital for your child to learn manners and responsibility.
Phones By Age
When it comes to children that are still in elementary school, a flip phone is often best. Believe it or not, they still have them. Flip phones are durable, more durable than a smart phone, and are a good way to monitor their usage. They often don’t have reliable access to the internet and are really meant strictly for talking and texting. At this age, I also recommend you focus more on a pre-paid phone rather than adding a line to your plan. The reason is simple, it’s far cheaper than increasing your own phone bill. The phones themselves are more affordable (especially if you need to replace it) and the plans are built around minimal to moderate use. In elementary school, it’s not too common to see a child making that many phone calls and texts.
Middle school and high school aged children are usually the ones who get a smartphone. However, you are not obligated to provide them a cellphone! If they haven’t had a phone until now, they can start with a flip phone if you want them to. They are more likely to show emotions around not getting a smartphone, but lessons still need to be taught. If you do choose to get them a smartphone, be mindful of what they can access. This is the time for heavy talking about internet access and what they should not be sharing online. At this age, you are still the parent and have full right to take their phone and check on what they are doing. If they don’t like it, you can always allow them to buy their own phone and pay their own bill. I still recommend a prepaid account at this age because it still teaches them how to be responsible with their usage.