Eventually your t(w)een will get a cell phone; statistics suggest it's only a matter of time. According to a Pew Research Center article, 75% of 12-17 year olds own cell phones; one-third sends more than 100 text messages a day–3000 texts a month!
I applaud the parents who resist societal pressure to allow their child a cell phone before high school; we held out until eighth grade, and even then, my children were among the last of their classmates to get one.
Arguments on both sides of the issue are compelling, but rather than enter the debate about who's "right," let's consider the benefits and precautions of cell phone ownership among tweens and teens:
- Safety. It's reassuring to know your child can call for help, no matter where they are or what they are doing. Just wait until you your teen starts driving alone and you'll know exactly what I mean! But it's even a comfort when my youngest rides bikes to a nearby store.
- Convenience. Cell phones allow you to communicate changes in plans, if you're running late, or if you need someone to pick up an ingredient for dinner.
- Communication. Texting enables you to communicate to several people at a time quick blasts of information that would otherwise require a number of phone calls.
- Camera. Most mobile phones have a camera enabling you to capture life-moments, when in the past you had to rely on memory alone.
- Entertainment. With games to play, your children might never be bored again in an orthodontist waiting room.
- Music. Several phone options are designed as an mp3 player without the additional cost of a second gadget.
- According to the same survey cited above, teens are more likely to call or text their friends on a daily basis than talk face to face.
- Rude! Why do cell phones give us permission to be rude?!
- One of my biggest pet peeves is having to listen to other people's coversations in line at the grocery store, waiting rooms, etc.; trust me, NO ONE wants to hear about the minutia of your life we're subjected to. Actually, now that I think about it, adults are worse with CALLS than tweens and teens.
- Go to any social gathering of 11-18 year olds, and unless they're prohibited, you'll see the majority of kids with a cell phone in hand…not in purse or pocket. Every few seconds they'll glance at their phone, but I always wonder if there's anything to read.
- Cells are not permitted at the dinner table in our home.
- Apps, apps and more apps. Although there is so much good about smart phones, I put this bullet point in the middle; one, I'm 100% against smart phones for tweens or teens for any reason, and two, apps can be addictive. Angry Birds, anyone? And does anyone really need to update Facebook and check your status constantly?
- Loss of imagination. With a cell phone in hand, t(w)eens need never be bored again. What a pity. So much is learned when the only thing you have left is your imagination…or a good book.
- Sleep deprivation. I'm shocked at the times of incoming texts to my children at times (we check our bill). If their phone isn't cut off or silenced at night, sleep could be interrupted at all hours.
- My strong recommendation for those of you who haven't yet allowed your children to get a cell phone, is to require it be charged in YOUR room at night. Do this from the beginning and it won't be an issue later.
(This is why I recently referred to cell phones as a loaded weapon…!)
- Sexting. You cannot afford to think your child would never do this; I've known too many of your children who HAVE done this (received or sent). "Good" girls AND boys sext :(.
- There's a great post at Scribbit about sexting, guested by her criminal defense attorney brother, Luke. Read it to open your eyes.
- Texting and driving. We've all seen people swerve and jerk their car over the line, only to see a cell phone in their hand (I wanna scream "Citizen's arrest! every time I do! Where's Barney Fife when you need him?). My kids will lose the car and their phone if caught doing this. We also discourage talking and driving, but ease that restriction after they've been driving a while.
- Bullying. Friends today don't mean friends always; though I have no personal experience with this one, I've heard enough horror stories to add bullying to the list.
Cell phones can be a wonderful tool used wisely, but in the hands of t(w)een, they're a privilege not a right (even if they're paying for them). Be the parent. Educate yourself with information that will help you parent your child well through responsible cell ownership.
A few good resources:
- (in)courage, Loaded Weapon, by Robin Dance. May 2011. (Read comments for additional thoughts by responsible parents.)
- Scribbit, "Sexting: One more thing for parents to worry about," by Luke Nichols. August 2010.
- Pew Research Center Publications, "Teens, cell phones and texting," by Amanda Lenhart. April 2010.
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Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Artemis Gordon on Sciencedaily.com