Look who’s talking! Should kids have phones?

In a previous era, kids in the US would get a phone in their bedroom and then never stop talking on it. At least, that’s what movies and TV shows would have us believe. Indian parents never faced this issue because just getting a phone line itself was big hurdle. Now, with handset prices coming down to Rs2,000 and pre-paid plans, the option of handing a phone to kids is available to many parents. The question is, should children be given a phone, and at what age?

Deciding on an appropriate age for when your child should have her own mobile phone can be tricky. There’s no golden rule and it really depends on many factors. Some parents argue that the security of keeping in touch has far greater benefits than the negatives associated with a cell phone, such as excessive texting and net surfing. For others, access to chat rooms, social networking and games not only has the potential to compulsively distract and waste time but also poses dangers in the way of cyber-bullying and interacting with strangers.

Would you believe that 53% of 6-year-olds in the US have their own mobile phones? That’s according to a survey of over 2,000 parents conducted by Vouchercloud and reported in Yahoo News. Another report in 2012 found high phone ownership in other countries too. The number may not be that high in India but even so, many middle-class middle-schoolers here do have access to their own cell phones here.

Mobile Phone Ownership

Source: GSM Association

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So what some reasons given why younger and youger children are getting phones? Most parents cite safety as the primary reason, saaying that being able to keep in touch with their child at any given time eases many safety concerns. 31% of parents in the US survey said they used it as a guarantee they could get in touch with their child at any time. 25% said that the phone was given so that relatives and friends could be kept in touch with and 20% justified their decision by saying they wanted their child to have a mobile as most of their friends had one.

When it comes to deciding when your off-spring is ready to dial up, don’t let age be the only factor you consider – maturity plays a huge role in responsible phone ownership as well. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, tells Yahoo Parenting, “A lot depends not on chronological age but on how mature your child is. But in general, a child should be at least 10, ideally 12 or 13.”

Before you buy a handset for your child, you need to review a few key points. Does your child really need one? If she is always in close proximity to home and is barely left unsupervised then maybe you could just lend her a family cell phone for times when she goes out for longer periods. This will also remove some of the allure and want of having her own cell. Also, be clear to set rules when you buy your child a phone. For example, limited use in the evenings when it’s time to do homework, no joining social network websites until they are an appropriate age and periodic checks on the mobile to see that nothing is amiss.

Did you give your child a phone? Why, or why not? Leave a comment below. Please like FamiLife’s page on Facebook so that you get all our articles and others may find us.

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