When to get the kid a cellphone

By Anne Collier

Oh good. Some things about kids’ first cellphones haven’t changed. The latest article on when to buy kids their first cellphones says what I’ve been saying for awhile: “There is no age that suits all children, developmental psychologists and child safety experts say,” the New York Times reports. “It depends on the child’s maturity level and need for the phone, and the ability to be responsible for the device – for example, keeping it charged, keeping it on and not losing it.” The “everybody has one” argument can be countered with, “and why should you have one?” Follow-up questions in a calm, thoughtful parent-child discussion might include: “Are you prepared to pay for repair or replacement if you’re responsible for damage to or loss of the phone?” and “Will you stick to the rules we establish as a family?” Those rules can involve a phone curfew, a place in the house to recharge where a phone can’t be tucked under a pillow to be used in the middle of the night, a balance of phone use and schoolwork, and a growing sense of when it is and isn’t polite to use phones in others’ presence. What’s new: smart phones. Like feature phones, they have cameras and Web access, but with operating systems such as Android and the iPhones on which countless apps can run. A growing number of apps for Android phones can be downloaded from anywhere on the Web, without the corporate rating system or control iPhone apps have. The Times article has a few links to both downloadable parental-control apps cellphone carriers’ parental-control tools. [See also “House rules for teen texting” and ConnectSafely’s cellphone safety tips.]

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