Children and Cell Phones
It’s so exciting to watch my girls grow up. But I have this fear that they are growing way too fast and I can’t keep up. With technology every where you turn, it’s no wonder our children are asking for cell phones at so young of an age.
I want to keep them boxed in. Well I know I can’t do that. So instead I want to be informed and make the best choice when it comes to my kids having cell phones down the line.
AT&T recently conducted a mobile phone study to better understand the most prevalent wireless safety issues for families. I was pretty surprised with their findings. I know bullying is out of control right now, but I didn’t really know kids are using cell phones to do it. The study also showed, 90 percent of kids surveyed, ages 8-17, agree it’s okay for their parents to set rules for mobile phone usage. Shocking!
AT&T took some time to answer some questions I had for them.
1. At what age do you recommend parents start discussing with their children safety and privacy while going online or using a phone?
Modeling good behavior should be something parents do from day one. Parents who follow rules and demonstrate what I call “cell phone etiquette,”, like turning their mobile phones off in movies and at restaurants, have a better chance of getting their children to follow rules later. Conversations should be kept age appropriate, but can begin early. For example, some parents may let their younger children play games or watch videos on their mobile devices – it’s important to let the kids know that not everything is meant for them and they should tell you if the screen changes. Be clear with your children on what you think is appropriate for them to view.
More discussions should happen as the child grows up and has more access to mobile devices. The AT&T Mobile Safety website at www.att.com/familysafety provides resources by topic and age to help families get tuned in to what issues matter to their children.
2. Are there any resources for parents to learn more in depth about settings and restrictions?
Parents can learn more about safety tools like Content Filter, Purchase Blocker and Smart Limits for Wireless, intended to help families manage how they use mobile devices, on the AT&T Mobile Safety website.
It’s important to set guidelines for children, and our AT&T Mobile Safety Study found that 90% of kids think it’s OK for parents to set rules on how kids can and cannot use the phone.
3. Which is the best age to allow kids to have cell phones?
It really varies depending on the child. You have to factor in the child’s maturity and how responsible he or she is. With my children, it was when they started participating in a lot of after-school activities and needed a way to stay in contact with us.
4. Regarding bullying, if a parent thinks their child is being bullied via a text message, what should they do?
Parents should have a discussion with their child about bullying before it happens – making sure the child is comfortable coming to them if they’re being bullied and making sure their child isn’t the instigator. A child may not tell you if they’re being bullied, but you can bring it up to them. Find ways to work it into everyday conversations. I’ve found TV shows and situations the characters get into can be a good, non-threatening way to approach the topic.
There are also tools, like AT&T Smart Limits for Wireless, that can help by blocking texts and calls from the bully’s phone number.
5. If my kid is in a vehicle where the driver might be texting, what advice can I give her/him?
It can be an uncomfortable situation for the child, especially if the individual texting and driving is an adult. It’s important to let your child know they can and should speak up. In the moment, they can offer to send the text for the driver. If it’s a peer, they should make it clear that texting and driving is not OK in any situation and they will not ride with them if they continue to do it. If it’s an adult, they should tell you about the situation immediately.
6. What is the main reason why parents are providing cell phones at such a young age?
There’s a lot of peer pressure and kids are asking for phones at younger and younger ages. And of course you will hear, “everyone else has one.” It comes down to individual families’ needs and how responsible the child is. If they’re usually with an adult, they really don’t need their own mobile phone. Once they start biking and/or walking to friends’ houses and participating in after school activities, parents usually start thinking about a phone.
7. What should a parent be asking themselves before buying a cell phone for their child?
They need to be thinking about how responsible the child has been in the past, whether it’s a need or a social want, and thinking about what kind of phone and plan makes sense. If the phone is for safety, a simple device that can make calls in emergencies may be sufficient. A more expensive smartphone may be something the child can earn after he or she has consistently shown responsibility with the basic device.
8. How does a parent know if their child is mature or responsible enough to have a cell phone?
Parents should take a look at their children’s past behaviors. How are their interactions with their friends? Do they treat others respectfully and know not to overshare? Does the child have a record of being careful with expensive toys? Do they remember to do their chores without being asked? All of these elements together can be indicators determining whether they’re ready for the responsibility of having their own mobile device.
I think AT&T answered my questions thoroughly. I feel a little bit more comfortable knowing that one day my girls will be using cell phones. I am the parent. They can only do what I let them