By Rob Baquera, Public Information Officer, Roseville Police Department
If you have a pre-teen, you may have already heard them ask the question, “May I have a cell phone?” Your child may be pestering you about getting a phone, and you may be wondering what age is the most appropriate for them to get one. Many parents give their child a cell phone for safety reasons and the peace of mind of knowing their child can call them at any time. However, parents also need to realize the potential dangers that exist with a cell phone. Cyberbullying, predators, and scams are just a few.
When is the right time for your child to get their first cell phone?
That’s the big question, and there’s no clear cut answer. If your child is always with you or a trusted adult, he/she should not need a cell phone. When kids start to walk to school by themselves or are without supervision, then they may need a cell phone. Many parents consider a phone when a child is in middle school. At this age, kids are becoming more independent and are often involved in after school activities. According to a Nielsen report released in February 2017, approximately 45 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 10-12 had their own smartphone with a service plan.
Keeping Kids Safe on Their cell Phones
Fortunately, there are things parents can do to keep their child safe. One effective tool is to set up parental controls. This will allow parents to monitor their kid’s phone use, determine which sites and apps their child can access, and set time limits on their child’s device.
A cell phone can be a great safety tool, but like any tool, it is important to teach children how to use it safely. Here are some tips from Scholastic.com to help you get started:
Start Simple: Show your child how to use their phone, pointing out valuable features like the key lock, vibrate, and alarm. Program the speed dial with your contact information and other emergency numbers. For extra security, consider buying one of several models designed just for kids. Some require parents to enter all phone numbers, so kids can only send and receive calls from approved individuals.
Limit Usage: Designate time slots for talking or texting— perhaps after homework and chores are completed or before dinner.
Teach Responsibility: Make sure your child understands a cell phone is not a toy. Explain the fees associated with text messages, data use, games, apps, and sharing photos.
Keep it Private: Instruct your child to use caution when giving out their number. Phones should only be used to communicate with people they know in the real world.
Assess Before Answering: Teach your child not to answer calls or text messages from unrecognized numbers. Explain how to block calls from unwanted numbers.
Exercise Etiquette: In addition to enforcing your own rules, make sure your child respects the rules of other establishments. Phones should be turned off or silenced at hospitals, movie theaters, and restaurants, for example. Restrict use during after-school activities or on the bus. Know what your child’s school permits for students’ use of cell phones.
When you finally decide to give your child a cell phone, sit down, and talk with him/her about your expectations. Establish specific and clear guidelines for acceptable phone usage and consequences if the rules are not followed. Know what your child is doing on their device, and keep the lines of communication open. By doing so, your child will feel comfortable coming to you with questions and problems that may arise.