Nowadays, many parents struggle with kids and cell phones. For most of us, this is one area we don't have an example from our childhood to draw from since cell phones weren't as common when we were kids as they are today.
Without our own experiences to guide us, how do we determine what's right for our own kids? I think a good place to start is to arm ourselves with information.
When the first iPhone debuted to the public over ten years ago, it caused an explosion of consumer excitement. A slew of new phones, apps, and designs sprung up over the next decade, and during this time, the number of users under the age of 18 jumped as well.
Today, nearly 50 percent of kids are getting their own phones by the age of 11 or 12, according to a recent Nielsen report. If you are undecided about getting your kids a phone, there are several benefits of kids and cell phones that you may want to know about before you make up your mind.
Kids and Cell Phones – Benefits
1. Increased Social Interaction
If your child has difficulty making friends, giving him or her a cell phone may go a long way in boosting social interaction with others. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr allow your child to reach out and find other kids that share his or her interests.
While not all of these kids may live in your neighborhood, internet friendships can help your child learn how to create ties with others and foster social connections that may last far beyond their childhood.
2. Safety and Security
If your kids are vying for more independence, giving them smartphones can give you peace of mind about their whereabouts while allowing them their freedom. It may improve family relations and build your children’s confidence as well.
A quick text or phone call lets you know that your child is safe at a friend’s house, the library, or at an after-school activity.
Some smartphones include security apps that allow you to see your children’s whereabouts on a local map and alert them in case of an emergency.
For example, if you are scheduled to pick up your daughter at her junior high at 3:30 and your younger child comes down with the flu at her school at 3:00, you can send an alert that will let everyone in your group know. This allows you to make alternate plans with a minimum of stress.
3. Learning Responsibility
You may flinch at the thought of giving your young teen an item as expensive as a cell phone, but such a treasured item may improve their ability to be responsible. After all, a device that allows them to watch movies, listen to music, and keep in touch with their friends is likely to be guarded and treated like their most precious possession.
Another benefit in this area is that you can use the phone as a tool to teach them about money, budgeting, and the consequences of overspending. This can be accomplished by including your kids on your family’s cell phone plan and letting them know how much data they have available each month.
If they exceed that limit, you can set a consequence such as loss of phone privileges or assign them additional chores to make up for the extra expense.
4. Technological Savvy
The future belongs to technology, and giving your younger teens access to a cell phone might give them an edge when it comes to learning new skills. Learning young may steer them toward a career in mobile technology and follow in the footsteps of Chris Sacca, popular entrepreneur and CEO of Lowercase Capital, where he helps bankroll startup companies. Chris Sacca’s wife, who is a partner in the company, is also the mother of three young children who are also growing up in the world of advanced technology.
While you might not understand all the apps and social media platforms that are available to your kids, giving them the chance to explore them and learn can help keep them current on the latest technology. Later on, when your children are college-bound, they may have an edge for classes that include virtual lessons and other programs that require knowing how to use mobile technology.
5. Educational Support
If your child has ever come to you for help with algebra or a difficult literature assignment and even you had a hard time understanding it, having a cell phone can put your child in touch with homework assistance almost immediately. Free online message boards, lessons, infographics, and tutorial websites can be reached with the tap of a button. Some schools even support their own after-school sites where your kids might be able to find help while writing essays or trying to puzzle out algebraic equations.
If you decide to get your kids their own phones, contact their school and ask if there is a virtual parent portal available so you can keep track of each child’s progress and get them help before they start to fail tests, not after. The better informed you are, the more you might be able to enrich your children’s educational experience.
The decision to give your kids their own cell phones can be a difficult one, especially if they are not yet teenagers. However, there are several benefits as well, and as long as you monitor your children’s phone usage, it can be a useful tool.