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Published on May 04, 2015

Is My Child Ready for a Cellphone?

May 04, 2015

Is My Child Ready for a Cellphone?All his school friends got smartphones over the summer, and now he’s begging you for one. What should you do?

It’s a dilemma more and more parents are facing—for kids at younger and younger ages. In 2012, a researcher at Bridgewater State University conducted a survey of more than 20,000 U.S. students and found that 20 percent of third-graders had a mobile device. The numbers climb steadily with age: 39 percent of fifth-grade students had their own phones, while a staggering 83 percent of middle-schoolers did.

Activating Pandora’s Box

The decisions you make now about your child having and using a cellphone will have implications for future issues. Be prepared to face these issues before you make this decision. Some implications to think about include:

  • Cyberbullying. Having a cellphone may make your child more vulnerable to both being cyberbullied and becoming a cyberbully. If your child has ever struggled with social aggression, the cellphone question should be handled with even more caution.
  • Social media use. Spending too much time on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has been linked to depression, anxiety, poor academic performance and low self-esteem among adolescents. If you do allow your child to have a personal phone, what boundaries will you set for social media use?
  • Sexting. Sending illicit text and picture messages is a growing trend among teens and preteens. One study revealed that one in five teens have texted a naked image of themselves or posted it online, and one in six teens have been texted a naked picture of someone they know.
  • Access to illicit material. According to the Pew Research Center, one in four students ages 12 to 17 access the Internet primarily through their phones instead of a computer. It’s harder to monitor your child’s online activity on a phone, making it easier for exposure to mature or pornographic content to go undetected.

Mobile Maturity

Before you make your decision, try to gauge your child’s maturity and trustworthiness. For example, is he good at taking care of personal possessions? Does she obey other rules you’ve set for her regarding homework, chores and curfew? Have you ever found him visiting websites you’ve made clear are off-limits? Does he have a healthy sense of respect for himself and others? Remember, every family has its own rules and values, and some children require more or fewer boundaries than others. While it’s tempting to follow what other parents are doing, only you can decide what your child is ready for.

3 Apps That Empower Parents

Want to keep a closer eye on your child’s phone activity? Try these parental control apps:

  • ParentKit is a great all-around parental control app that gives you the ability to monitor and restrict how and when your child browses the Internet, uses apps or watches videos—all while using your own smartphone as the remote.
  • Browser for Kids is a web browser app that lets you choose what it does and doesn’t display. Website filters keep unwanted content off the browser, while its time-limit function allows you to restrict overall mobile Internet use.
  • DinnerTime gives you the ability to pause phone activity for any set period of time through its “Take a Break” feature. It also enables you to view a child’s app use in real time. You can even share DinnerTime control with other adults—such as a grandparent or nanny—by linking to their phone number.

Buying a kid-friendly phone may offer you the most peace of mind. Kajeet smartphones allow you to set time limits through an online account so you can manage when your child can receive texts and calls, as well as monitor which sites your child visits on its mobile web browser.

Having trouble connecting with your teen? We offer a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Teen Group which focuses on decreasing self-destructive behaviors, recognizing and changing chaotic relationships and regulating emotions by increasing stress tolerance.


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