Kids & Cell Phones – Helpful or Harmful

What used to be a rarity has become the norm.  And cell phones are the least of the exception.

Rewind time to a few generations ago and cell phones were a thing of the few.

If you wanted to hang out with your friends after school?  That meant you were pre-planning ahead the night before at the dinner table with your parents.  And if plans changed mid-day at school? Well then you’d best get in line to use the office phone during lunch.

Walking home from school alone without a phone for an emergency? No way to text a quick update to your parents when you arrived safely at your destination? Forgot something and no way to let someone know you need it ASAP? It’s mind-blowing, but somehow we all survived.

The surge in technology has created conveniences a plenty.  And the ease of living is mind-blowing.  However, it’s brought forth a level of freedom that’s seemingly dangerous more often than it’s helpful… especially for kids.

SAFETY is one of the most commonly reported reasons parents buy cell phones for their children.  Ironically, that’s the least common use of a phone owned by a child.  New York Times interviewed experts about this very issue, and child psychologists said there’s not a specific age that fits “all children,” but generally kids are not ready to own a phone until middle school when they start to exercise more independence alone.

So… still thinking about getting your child a cell phone? Here’s some pointers.

Check with your current cell-phone carrier and see what basic plans they have available.  Adding an additional line is always less expensive than starting a new one.  Cell phone al a cart options like pay-as-you-go, calls/texts to a limited set of numbers, prepaid plans, emergency call capabilities, etc. help to create a great child-friendly plan for a reasonable amount.

Some carries even offer parental controls, such as the ability to block numbers if your child is being bullied, to turn the phone off during school hours, or check phone locations so you’ll know if your child has arrived safely at home.  THAT is a good use of technology and money.

What adults unanimously express as a concern, however, is the wide variety of entertainment features.  Smart phones have unlimited access to the Internet, apps, social media platforms, videos, etc.  THAT is where the insurmountable levels of drama and all-consuming addictions come from.  And no matter how much nagging a child gives their parents about “needing a smart phone,” the reality is that the pressure to fit in is immense; no kids wants a “dumbed down” phone or restricted access.  On the contrary though, experts warn against unrestricted freedom for a reason, and generation upon generation will vouch that life is possible without 24/7 access to the web.

Wherever you’re at in your journey of getting your child a phone, make sure you take some time to educate yourself on the pros and cons that will inevitably come with it.

Distractions, dangers, uncertainties, dilemmas, controversy, drama … children (and adults!) battle enough of that these days.  Do your child a favor and show some tough love: don’t let him/her battle the world alone through their phone.