Pros and Cons of Children Having Cell Phones - Is your Child ready?

My stepson is almost 13 years old and has recently started to ask for a cell phone. When we asked him why he wanted one, he simply said "all my friends are getting cell phones". Interesting answer, but not very informative, we told him!

Of course, we told him that the fact that his friends have cell phones is not enough reason for him to have one. Although the conversation with him regarding the pros and cons of cell phones lasted for at least 15 minutes, I am certain that he was not convinced.

Cell phones are a great way to stay in touch anytime, anywhere (assuming that you remember to charge it!). But is my stepson responsible enough to have one? Does he understand what is involved in terms of the use and responsibilities associated with having a cell phone? How much does he know about the medical problems that have been associated with cell phones?

If we want to convince my stepson that he doesn't really need a cell phone now, we first have to make certain that we, ourselves, have a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of cell phones. Furthermore, we cannot just say YES to him without making certain that he understand both the positive and negative sides of the use of cell phones.  

Pros and Cons of Cell Phones

I tried to find information regarding cell phones and children, and I have to tell you that there is a lot of information in the web. Clearly, we can write pages and pages about the subject. 

Pros
From what I read, there are three fundamental advantages of cell phones for children:

1. You can call or text him to find out where he is and what he's doing and inform him of your own plans.

2. In an emergency, a cell phone can be crucial if your child needs to reach you -- or vice versa.

3. Having to look after a cell phone and using it with care will teach your child about the importance of responsibility, especially if your child is partially (or totally) responsible for the costs associated with the usage of the phone.

Cons
In general, most parents consider that the downsides associated with cell phones are:


1. Instead of doing their chores or homework, some kids may spend most of their time sending text messages to friends, or may be overusing non-educational apps (e.g., games).

2. Children may use their cell phones during class time to send or receive text messages or to play games, causing both distraction and disruption.

3. If web access is provided with the cell phone, then children could visit websites at their own judgment. This may or may not be a problem depending upon the child.

4. There is growing evidence suggesting that cell phones, especially those that allow kids to text, can disrupt children's sleep patterns. 

5. Although is still a little bit controversial, several studies have associated various medical problems or conditions to the overuse of cell phones.

So, what to do if your child ask you for a cell phone?

One of the websites regarding the use of cell phones by children that was particularly informative was the one of Dr. Laura Markham's Aha! Parenting Website.


Dr. Markham indicates that "research shows that when kids have problems with technology of any kind, it’s because they’re having problems that go beyond technology, and those problems will show up in the rest of their life. So if your child is mostly responsible, considerate and happy, he or she is probably responsible with technology, too".

I found this statement particularly useful. None knows our children better than us. So, if you know that your child is having trouble with responsibilities (e.g., chores), perhaps he/she is not ready yet for a cell phone. 

Here are a couple of other recommendations made by Dr. Markham that are also useful.

1. Don't give your child a cell phone too early. The younger your child when she gets the cell phone, the more you're asking of her, because it will just be harder for her to act responsibly with it.

2. Agree to rules, before that first cell phone. Most parents think a "contract" with their child is unnecessary and silly. But a written agreement is a great way for your child to step into this new responsibility without you "over-parenting."

3. Scaffold. Don't just buy a cell phone, give a lecture, and hope for the best. Instead, see this as a year-long project. In the beginning, you'll talk with your child every night about his mobile use. Evaluate the situation from time to time and be prepared to make modifications if necessary. 

4. Talk, and listen. At the dinner table, comment on news stories that involve cell phones, from sexting to dangerous apps to driving deaths. Ask questions about what your child thinks, and listen more.

What do you think about this issue? Recommendations?



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