11.26.2013Personal Tech

Kids and Cell Phones: Why I Gave One to My 11-Year-Old Son

This is a guest post from Toledo, OH resident Toni-Lynn Barber, a mom of two, blogger and Twitter party host.

I always thought kids were given cell phones way too early these days. I just couldn't justify why on earth a 11-year-old needed a cell phone. This year my oldest son, Royal, started junior high. This wouldn't really be a big deal, except I also have a younger son, Spencer, in elementary school. Running back and forth between two schools and dealing with a dozen teachers instead of two has made simple, daily contact tricky.

Royal came home the first day of school and began telling me how almost everyone has a cell phone at his school. I quickly learned why a child needs a cell phone. He had one for two weeks, as a little test run, and I couldn't believe how inconvenient things became once that two week period was up. One of the biggest issues was transportation – knowing when he wanted to ride the bus home, when he wanted to be picked up and when he wanted to walk home. He would change his mind quite frequently and before the cell phone, he would call me from the office two or three times a day.

If he was waiting for me to pick him up, he would go back in the school and call me if he felt I was taking too long. It can be an interruption to the school, and his lack of patience can be bothersome. I really believe kids having phones gives them a little extra sense of security and independence.

I do not think a kid this young should be given a phone and it be taken advantage of. He only has a small selection of numbers he's allowed to call or text. I personally am one of those people who always has her cell phone in hand or very nearby. I don't want him to be like that. I see kids walking home from school texting and not paying attention to their surroundings.

While I agree the phone is a good choice for him, we've established these rules:

  • He is never to take it out during school unless there is an emergency.
  • No letting other people play with or use it.
  • When he comes home, it gets plugged in and stays there.
  • If he doesn't take care of it, he loses it.
  • When walking home from school, it stays in his pocket.
  • Any passwords will be known to me.

It's nice to know I can reach him whenever I need to by shooting him a text he will get after school, or just to hear his voice so I know he is safe. If it's within your budget, I think junior high is definitely a good time to introduce your child to owning a cell phone. I wouldn't start out with a big, expensive smartphone, but having him/her learn to take care of something is a great life skill.

How old are your children? Do they have cell phones? Why or why not?

(For more on this topic, read our post about advice for kids using technology).

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