With the majority of the adult US population having smartphones, it’s nearly inevitable that tweens and young teens (kids ages 10-13) will ask parents for a cell phone too. My oldest is 4 and she routinely asks to watch the tablet or look at videos on my phone. Whether or not your family provides a cell phone to your tween is a completely personal decision and you may be considering one for many reasons (safety, the ability to know where your teen is, etc). Here are some of the things to consider (that you’re likely already thinking!):
- Your tween doesn’t get to chose the phone. Go for a non-smart phone – if possible, get the most basic phone available, one without internet capability or data usage to start. Put the emergency contacts (parents, grandparents, doctor, neighbor, etc) in the phone first thing.
- Consider a ‘go phone’ with a set number of minutes per month instead of a new cell plan/contract.
- Layout ground rules ahead of time: the phone just for communication, it must go on the charger in mom and dad’s room by 7pm (as an example), no phone at the dinner table or during family events, parents reserve the ability to randomly look at your phone, including messages at any given time, if inappropriate messages or images are found you no longer will have a phone (I use the ‘grandma’ test for appropriateness – my granny is 95, if I wouldn’t say it or show it to her, it’s generally not appropriate to send to anyone)
- If a smart phone is the only thing being sold by your mobile carrier (it probably isn’t, but it might be the most appealing option), limit data and usage. You can ask for a plan that will shut off the phone’s ability to send pictures or access internet/apps if your reach a certain data usage.
- With smart phones (and tablets/laptops), have consistent expectations regarding social media usage. For the very young, I would advise not allowing them to have a personal social media site profile (middle school, I might consider allowing a teen to have their own profile).
- Parents control passwords and reserve the ability to monitor social media at anytime (you can go on their profile and review randomly), if inappropriate content is found, the tween should have an appropriate consequence. Examples of consequences include: deactivate the profile, let parents review the profile every night until they deem you’ve earned the privilege back, or something like that.
- The benefit of a smartphone – there’s the ability to track the owner. The iphone has a ‘find my friend’ app that allows you to see exactly where the user is located (Android likely has this capability too).
- Use parental controls… you can put restrictions on a phone to limit downloads and certain sites. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304 Android has parental controls too.
- When giving your tween the phone, let them know that you love and trust them, but this is a privilege that comes with expectations. As with all privileges, it can be lost if they don’t follow the expectations.
Here’s a blog post that may help provide guidance by the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Cell-Phones-Whats-the-Right-Age-to-Start.aspx
What expectations have you set for cell phone usage in your household?