By Kristine Emerson
Some parents consider cell phones for their young children as a tool for staying in touch and keeping the lines of communication open. Others content that giving your kids a cell phone too soon opens opportunities for cyberbullying and sexting.
If your kids are angling for a smartphone of their own, you’re not alone. According to a recent study by American Express, sixty-four percent of adults believe that the best age is somewhere between 10 – 14, while 10 percent think that under age 10 is appropriate.
There’s no precedent for this major milestone – the right age to allow your child a cell phone depends on your personal family circumstances, your child’s maturity level and the real need for a cell phone.
“It is not the age you give your child a cell phone based on their maturity and safety needs, it is how you give them the phone,” says Kelly Klaus, LMFT based in San Juan Capistrano. “The phone is not THEIR possession, it is the parent’s and they have the ability to revoke the privilege of a cell phone for any misuse, misbehavior or irresponsible behavior.”
Klaus adds that the type of phone you purchase should also be considered – the more controls you put in place (such as prepaid minutes and Internet access), the healthier the boundaries for your children. Klaus advises parents and children to agree on the parameters of misuse and who pays overage fees, breaking/replacing and additional fees.
“Having said that, it is shocking to witness a complete meltdown of children and teens who are cut off from their addiction of social media after abusing the privilege,” says Klaus. “It is okay not to give your child a cell phone just because “everyone” else has one.”