I remember when I was in middle school and I got my first cellphone in 8th grade. It was an old Nokia with a green and black interface, fat antenna on top and was barely able to fit into my pocket. Best of all it had “Snake” built in! I was 14 at the time and seeing a 14 year old with a cellphone back in 1999 was out of the ordinary. During the late 90′s and even the early 00′s, cell phones were considered an adult device. It had the stereotypical attachment to businessmen and soft top sports cars. Now anyone with a few bucks and a prepaid card can get a cellphone from Walmart and be connected instantly. Of course children can’t just go ahead and do that, but the visual of a teenage with a cellphone is now common place.
According to a report done by The Republic, more than 75% of teens going back to school have cellphones and that number continues to grow. but one market is growing even faster, and only recently became an officially named demographic, “Tweens”. Tweens are the ages between 9 and 12, not quite a teenager but not a child either. This market was exploited by businesses the most, with boy bands, MTV and, more recently, romantic vampires. With cellphones getting cheaper, not to mention having gps tracking features, parents are giving their children phones earlier and earlier in life.
But does your child “need” a cellphone? You only need to ask yourself a few questions to know for sure. Do you want to be able to contact your child 24/7, and vice versa in case of emergencies? Can you trust your child with a phone? Or will he or she lose it? How much do you want to spend? Do you want to get a smart phone with GPS tracking and several bells and whistles? Or a simple clam shell phone only for calls. Perhaps buying a used or refurbished cell phone? The National Consumers League has a guide with some of these questions they want you to keep mind when deciding on what phone to purchase for your child.
Next you’ll want to decide on some ground rules. Do you want to set up a limit of texts per-day? Or just accept teens, and tweens, text more than adults and just purchase the unlimited texting plans? You’ll want to explain the dangers of “sexting” and riding a bike while on the phone (just as, if not more dangerous, than driving your car and doing the same). You’ll want to explain strict rules when bringing their phone to school, not just by you as parents, but by the schools rules themselves. Some phones even allow you to set limits to incoming and outgoing phone calls.
The age for cellphone use is only going to get younger and younger. Our phones are turning into more than “just a phone” and soon enough, seeing tweens with cellphones will be just as commonplace as seeing a teenage or adult with a cellphone. The best advice we can give you is to go phone shopping with your child. Just like an adult, you want to be sure they can use the phone, handle it correctly, and like the phone they’ll be getting. Everyone has different opinions on when a child, tween or teen is ready for a phone. But they are your children, so make the decision yourself, and keep the questions above in mind. Happy shopping!