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What is the Right Age for a Cell Phone?

It's generally accepted that most young people own and use cell phones, but how young is too young? Unfortunately, there is no magic number or formula that resolves the question of when your child should be given a cell phone. Every child is different, having both different needs and different levels of maturity, making the "right" age for a cell phone different for different children. There are a few factors, however, that remain consistently important in helping parents decide whether their child or young teenager is ready for their own phone.

Safety is a major reason why many parents choose to give their children their first cell phone. Emergencies can always arise, and a phone may afford your child an additional measure of safety in such a situation. This fact is especially true for children who are more likely to encounter emergency or otherwise dangerous or situations, such as those who have certain medical conditions, have parents who both work full-time, or walk or take the train alone to school or camp.

In addition to being a potential aid in emergency situations, a cell phone can help children who may frequently need to contact their parents, such as children who participate in after school activities and may need to call their parents if plans change or practice ends early. If your child needs to be able to stay in touch with you while they're out, a cell phone may be a very useful, convenient, and safe possession for them.

While cell phones can help keep your child safe, or at least afford you some peace of mind, they also hold the power to bring danger; cell phones, especially smart phones, can grant children minimally restricted access to things such as the Internet, camera features, and applications. While such access can be harmless, it could, in the wrong hands, afford the capacity for social error or even pose a potential danger.

Knowing these risks, it is best that your child is mature enough to understand what appropriate, acceptable use of a mobile device is and why, and that they are responsible enough to adhere to it before you give them a cell phone. They should also be conscious and respectful enough of others that they can be trusted not to engage in bullying or otherwise hurtful or embarrassing behaviors using their phones, especially if you are considering giving them a smart phone. These qualities develop at different ages in different kids, making an individual assessment of your child important to the decision of whether or not they are ready for a phone.

Responsibility is an important part of cell phone ownership for a number of reasons; it impacts not only how one uses a device, but how they treat it. At a minimum, your children should demonstrate an ability to take care of and not to misplace their belongings before you allow them to have a cell phone. While this skill isn't perfect in most children, children who are prepared to own a phone should at least understand and respect that they hold a level of accountability for their possessions.

A cell phone can be a very beneficial tool-- for those who are ready to own one. If you decide that it's time to give your child their own phone, be sure to have a conversation with them about cell phone safety and appropriate use. You should give even the most mature and responsible children a clear understanding of your expectations regarding their phones so that they can get the most good out of their device, with the fewest negative consequences.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePageSMS and text messaging software http://www.notepage.net and FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts http://www.feedforall.com .

 


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