Mom To Mom: When And How To Have ‘The Cell Phone Talk’

When it comes to kids and cell phones, the appropriate age to introduce the device to your specific child is completely individual. Because of our busy schedules as parents, there are a variety of reasons a child could own a cell phone nowadays. Perhaps the household environment has two full-time working parents, where the child needs to walk home from school, or carpool with a classmate. Whatever the reason may be, the age of someone’s kid owning a phone has increasingly become younger and younger.

Although I was on the later side of the scale, I did not receive my first cell phone until I was nearly seventeen. I simply didn’t need one for communication with my parents, and my mom did not want it to be a distraction from school or extracurricular activities. Now that I am a parent, I have decided to take a different route, but only to fit the current world we live in. 

It’s Your Call

My eldest daughter just started the fifth grade about a week ago. We bought her a phone for her tenth birthday in February, after what felt like years of her asking for one. The reason we decided to buy her a phone was because we live five minutes away from her school, and she walks home with a group of classmates that live in the same area as we do.

Although the walk is not long, and we live in one of the safest cities in the country, I like knowing I can see her location and contact her if needed. She is also involved in extracurricular activities such as soccer and Girl Scouts. Having a phone to contact her gives me the peace of mind that she can reach me if needed, be it an emergency or not. 

Weigh The Pros And Cons

For most parents, it’s not the phone calls that worries them as much as the applications that are available on a smartphone. Social media can be a dangerous place for a minor, and if not monitored properly, can be bad news. Screen addiction and being exposed to matters too mature for their age are just a couple examples of negative side effects of adolescent phone ownership. So, what can you do? The answer is to best weigh out the pros and cons and act accordingly. 

When it comes to my ten year old, we have parental control on most of her apps. We check her messages and activity often, and she doesn’t fight us on the matter. She understands that having a phone is a privilege, and the way we monitor is to keep her safe. The only social media platform we allow her to have is TikTok, because of its strict kid account features.

If the account is registered as a minor, there are many options to restrict the app’s abilities and restrict who can follow the account. Since my daughter is a lot like me, she thrives in the creative space. Creating fun videos and trying new transitions is a way she shows her creativity, so we definitely do not want to hinder that.

I know one day, I will need to grant more privacy when it comes to her phone. One day she will be a teenager, and I will need to respect her privacy a lot more. I know I can’t keep them from every possible danger, but when it comes down to it, my child needs a phone so I can contact her at any time. I did not buy a phone so she could have distraction at her fingertips, but I know it comes with the territory.

Trust Your Gut

The best advice I can give is to trust your gut. You know when you are ready to allow your child access to a phone. There are cell phone options available that cater specifically to children, making it only available for them to make phone calls and share their location. 

Depending on your child’s age, and your specific needs, I’m sure you will find a communication option best suited for them. Don’t feel guilty for monitoring their activity on the phone. They may give you an attitude at first, but once they understand the purpose, they’ll have no choice but to comply. Have a conversation with your child, and break down the expectations for their phone. If everyone is on the same page from the beginning, it makes for very little drama in the long run.

Adjust your supervision and expectations with time, as the older they get the more independence they will request. Whatever path you choose, just know you have the right to set any limitations you need to in order to feel comfortable. If you’re paying the bill and in charge of their safety and well being, it’s your call!


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