Kids, Cell Phones and the Tween Years

Cell phones for kids are all the rage, but should your child have one?

Smiling girl using smart phone in bed
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For tweens today, the cell phone is almost a right of passage. Today's tweens know what they want and they want cell phones!

Cell phone companies know it, too, as they target the preteen market with phones that appeal directly to children. Family calling plans are reasonably priced and many have incorporated tweens and their cell phone habits into the package.

It's estimated that approximately 10% of preteens already have cell phones.

You can bet the remaining 90% are jockeying to get one. But should your tween have a cell phone? Below are a few considerations as you ponder the kids, cell phone and tween years dilemma.

Does she really need a cell phone?

Probably not, but that doesn't mean that a cell phone is totally impractical. If your son has a very busy schedule or a schedule that isn't always predictable, a cell phone could help you stay in touch and keep up to date on his whereabouts.

The real question parents must ask themselves is whether or not their child is mature enough for a phone. Every kid will be different, but he should be able to keep up with his phone and manage the plan's monthly minute, text and data limitations.

Cell Phones and Rules

Before you go out and purchase a phone and a plan, you will need to know about school rules regarding cell phones. More and more schools are not allowing cell phones on premises or are requiring that they are turned off completely during school hours.

There are consequences if they're not.

If the whole idea behind purchasing the cell phone is to be able to contact your child at any time of day, you may decide the cost of the phone and the plan just isn't worth it.

Also, you'll want to consider appropriate disciplinary action should your child abuse his cell phone privileges.

Will you have to enforce tougher restrictions? Will she lose her cell phone altogether? 

Cell Phones and Etiquette

You're not doing your daughter (or society) any favors by buying her a cell phone and failing to educate her on appropriate cell phone behavior. Even tweens need to understand cell phone etiquette in order to save themselves from potentially embarrassing situations.

Instruct your child on the basics:

  • When it's appropriate to turn the phone to vibrate.
  • Excuse himself from others in order to carry on a phone conversation.
  • Turn the phone off when in public settings.

Incidentally, it's also important that your child understands that it's rude to take (or share) embarrassing pictures of his friends with his phone or to use the phone to gossip about others. A cell phone's access to the internet makes it more difficult for parents to oversee their kid's activities and texting makes it easy to spread rumors.

Make sure your child understands that bad behavior is just as bad when it is on the phone or online.

Are cell phones safe?

The jury is still out on this. In Europe, parents have been warned about the potential dangers caused by cell phones and the electromagnetic radiation they emit.

It's best that you talk with your son or daughter about cell phone safety and encourage them to only use the cell phone when absolutely necessary. In addition, headsets are a good idea for tweens or teens who spend a lot of time on their phones and should be an option to consider.

It's important to remember that cell phones can give tweens and their parents a false sense of security. Make sure your son or daughter understands that all the safety precautions you've taught them over the years still apply.

Children need to know that they should never put themselves in a risky situation, such as walking alone at night or catching a ride with a stranger, thinking that the cell phone will provide them with a safety net. It won't.

Tweens should also be told to never talk or text to someone they do not know. The 'stranger danger' saying applies to this new technology. Unfortunately, there are people in the world that want to take advantage of kids through their phones. They should never give their phone number out.

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