The decision to allow your tween or teen to have a cell phone is a difficult one. While the wonders of technology are enticing, kids seem to fall down a rabbit hole much like Alice did when they get a smartphone. Life quickly becomes a battle between parent and child regarding screen time. A cell phone rapidly becomes an extension of a child’s hand with online games, videos, social media, and texting. Then, of course, there is Pandora’s box a smartphone opens. Cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, trolls, stalking, social media, privacy, and health concerns are all very real issues once your child is handed a cell phone. With all the cons though, there are still pros why kids should have a cell phone.
Once kids hit middle school, they are on their own more whether they’re hanging out with friends or walking home from school or practice. Payphones have gone by the way of the dinosaur. In the event of an emergency, your child needs a way to contact you or dial 911 quickly. A smartphone is especially important once teens begin driving. In the event of an accident or another emergency, parents can be reached quickly.
With a smartphone, your tween or teen can text you if the school bus is running late or when practice is over. They can easily let you know where and when they need to be picked up, which means you won’t waste time sitting around waiting in the car in the school parking lot. When kids hit high school, they will be able to discretely text you to come to get them if a party is getting out of hand or they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
Teens may be excited when they get their driver’s license, but it’s a stressful time for parents. Installing a GPS tracker like the 360 app lets parents keep track of their child’s location through the smartphone. The 360 also provides weekly updates on your teen’s driving. This allows you to keep tabs on whether or not they’re driving safely even when you’re not in the car. More importantly, it lets you know where your children are. Teens may object and consider the 360 app stalking, but it really is for safety purposes. The 360 app isn’t just for teen drivers either. It can help parents keep track of tweens and younger teens when they are out with their friends, especially if your child is the one who forgets to text updates.
A smartphone is an expensive piece of technology and it’s a privilege to have one. Tweens and teens are learning valuable responsibility lessons when they have a cell phone. They must keep the smartphone safe and not lose or damage it. Kids also learn how to stay within their data, voice, and texting limits. In order to teach kids responsibility, parents should hold their tweens and teens responsible when there are issues with their smartphones like going over their data limits, misplacing, or damaging cell phones.
Once they’re in middle school, kids are making their own social connections. Playdates are gone and parents don’t control the social calendar any longer. Landlines have been put out to pasture. Texting, social media, and whatever the popular messaging app is at the moment are how tweens and teens keep in touch, make plans, and yes, even discuss homework assignments. When your kid doesn’t have a smartphone, they are definitely out of the loop.
Even if your middle and high school still provides kids with planners, most don’t use it. A conventional planner is usually stuck at the bottom of a backpack or locker and doesn’t come home until the final day of school. Smartphones are a great way to keep kids organized. Family calendars can be shared so kids know when appointments are or when they’re supposed to be at practice. Reminders can be set for homework, to study for tests, and even to remember to put that retainer in.
- Trust: Just like responsibility, having a smartphone is a lesson in trust. If tweens and teens breach that trust with their cell phones, there’s a consequence.
- School: Some teachers and coaches use social media to keep kids updated on practices, assignments, and tests. Other districts utilize apps like Remind to help kids stay on top of homework and projects. Many teachers also use school messaging apps to send test and quiz reminders.
- Divorce: A smartphone makes it easier for children splitting time between two households to stay in touch with both parents.
- Keeping in touch with extended family: Everyone has a smartphone these days, even grandparents. With a smartphone, kids can Facetime grandma and grandpa as well as keep in touch with cousins and extended family they don’t see often.
Deciding when and if your child is ready for a cell phone is a personal decision. Middle school is typically the time when kids gain more independence, which is why a smartphone is important for safety and convenience reasons. It’s simply an easy way to stay connected and keep track of your tween or teen. Having a cell phone is actually an important life lesson for kids. They learn how to manage data minutes, be responsible, and more. Of course, with the good comes the bad. It’s important to have open conversations with your kids about what’s okay to do with their cell phones, what’s not, and why too much time spent on a smartphone isn’t healthy.
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