At the end of the discussion, the host asked whether the expert’s own children had cell phones. "Yes," she replied. "But my kids are big already—nine and eleven."
There are two ways to look at cell phones. Some argue that cell phones give kids more independence. When we can contact them by phone at all times, we feel more comfortable letting them go further distances. They can call us if they get into trouble. Most important for us, we can always always reach them—at least in theory.
But there is another side. Sometimes, easy access to cell phones prevent kids from learning coping skills. Once they are old enough to cross the street or take the bus on their own, they need to learn how to manage when they get off at the wrong stop or there is no answer at the friend’s door. Kids need to learn to make decisions on their own, and not call home whenever they are stuck.
Giving kids cellphones gives parents a false sense of security. Cellphones won’t prevent our children from getting into a bicycle accident or smoking a cigarette. They can’t help us track what our kids are doing. The kids are still in control of their communication with us, and cellphones give them more freedom to communicate with people without our knowledge. And of course, in a real emergency, cell phones can be useless.
Two questions for readers:
- When did you first get your children cellphones? Mine got them between 13 and 16, depending on circumstances. My 14-year-old is the only one in his class without one, and it’s awkward for him to borrow his friend’s when he needs to call.
- What rules do you set for your kids’ cellphone use? Our kids’ phones (and mine) don’t have internet and they aren’t supposed to exceed a monthly balance. I don’t make the soldiers keep to it anymore, but their bills are reasonable. The kids know it’s cheaper to call from the landline, so you have to keep an eye on that bill as well.