When should your child get their first phone? There are so many differing opinions on this topic. If I had my way, my children would never get a phone. Is that really realistic?….I know the answer is no but when is the right time, the perfect time.
According to http://www.commonsensemedia.org, “The right age to give kids their first cell phone is really up to parents. Age isn’t as important a kid’s maturity level, ability to follow home (and their schools’) rules, and their sense of responsibility. But when you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.”
As the mother of three, I have to say this has evolved in our household. With our eldest, we said he could not get a phone until he was in grade 8. We made it till the middle of grade 7. He was the only kid without a phone. We were very restrictive about its usage and he knew we could get on his phone and see what he was doing at all times. This was all new for him but also for us. Through keeping “tabs” on his phone I learnt a lot. Just like for us it is much easier to text than it is to say something to someones face, the same goes for them, but I would say even more so. There was an incident I heard of where two girls were fighting over a boy, the boy texted something to one of the girls, she screenshot it and sent it to the other girl. It got very messy. They need to know that whatever they write, text, take pictures of can go viral. Another example of this was at a sex education talk at my children’s school. The educator spoke of a girl sending a boy a photo of her topless. He sent it onto his friends and was arrested for distribution of child pornography. The power they have with their phones are serious and need to be taken as such. Are they really ready for all of this? In the two examples above I am simply speaking about the basics of the phone. This is before speaking about instagram, snapchat, houseparty etc. If we could only get back to the simple times of the home phone.
I do not have any real answers to the question only advice from my experience. I do not believe there is one age that is “the age”. I have found that every year it changes. No one had a cellphone when my son was nine. My daughter is nine and several of her friends have phones. She does not and will not for sometime. 1. If and when you do decide to give your child a phone have their passcode and make sure they know you will be checking. I believe that as a general rule your child should not post, write or do anything publicly if they do not think you would approve. Our children are no longer afforded the same rights we had as kids to make mistakes without documentation. Now there are pictures, screenshots etc that can go viral. 2. Have open conversations regularly with your kids about social media, about what is going on with their phones. We have monitors on our children’s devices to see which apps they are using and what they are searching. 3. Try and stay up to date with all the new apps and how they are being used. 4. Have a group of parents looking out for each others kids. I regularly ask my friends what they have seen on their kids phones. Even when I think I am being on top of everything I still miss things. These are my few pieces of advice. I know they will evolve and I welcome anyones feedback. We have entered a whole new world. One that looks a lot different than the way we were brought up. I am unsure how I would fare in this world. I wish all the parents out there the best of luck.