I don’t know that we really wanted to do it. After all, we didn’t have cell phones when we were younger and we turned out just fine. But let’s face it; times are different than they were back then. Our kids are growing up digitally native and most have cell phones.
But, when is it appropriate to give your child a cell phone?
From the time our son and daughter were very little we monitored their electronics. I remember hearing about kids getting carpel tunnel syndrome because they played too many video games. Or watching my children when they played games or watched television—it was as if the body snatchers took my vibrant, engaging kids and replaced them with zombies.
I used to tell them that too much screen time sucked the imaginations from their brains.
I still feel that way.
Frankly, the use of too many electronics scares me. I’ve read and researched how our children’s brains, and ours, are being rewired based on the amount of electronics use, so the thought of giving my child a cell phone scared me. But that wasn’t the only reason.
I worried about the content that might accessed, what might be sent to my kids and, heaven forbid, the possibility that they might be bullied—because I know people whose children have been bullied and harassed via text messages and social media and have heard about the devastating effect this has had on their children.
Then CJ approached 12 and we once again circled back to this debate.
As a parent, you want to protect your children from the evils of the world or being negatively impacted by anything. While cell phones hold a lot of positives, giving our son a phone was also opening up a whole new world fraught with potential issues.
At first I wanted to wait another year, but then came the realization that technology, and cell phones, are a part of life. It’s a part of life, like many more that will come, where we need to trust that we have given him the right tools to make good decisions. Although it isn’t as significant as handing your child the keys to the car, it does carry with it a certain level of responsibility.
So the question then became, not necessarily what age is appropriate, but whether or not:
(a) Had CJ reached a level where he would responsibly use a cell phone?
(b) Did he need one?
The answer to those questions was yes, but I didn’t want to just hand him a phone and minimize the responsibility it carried.
A few years ago, I remembered reading about a cell phone contract. I liked the concept that it held and thought it made a lot of sense, so I devised one of our own based on several that I found across the internet, but used one on Josh Shipp’s site primarily as the basis for the one I created:
Congratulations! You have received your first cell phone. This cell phone is not a right, but a privilege. Given your age, your continued honesty and overall responsibility, we feel that you are now ready to have your own phone. However, this privilege comes with responsibilities.
By reading the guidelines and signing below, you are agreeing to accept the responsibilities as a cell phone holder.
I understand that this phone is given to me on loan and is not mine. If I violate the above agreement, I understand that the phone can be taken away. I have read the following document and agree to the above terms.
It’s my hope that with some ground rules in place, we will be able to guide our son towards responsible use of what is essentially a tool.
We are just beginning this process and I would love to hear from other parents about their experiences! Have you given your child a cell phone and if so, at what age did you? What positives or negatives have you experienced?