Creative Child

8 Tips for Getting Your Child A Cell Phone: It's Your Call!

Pre-teens are demanding cell phones in droves. Good questions and clear ground rules can ease the transition for parent and child alike.
by Erin J. Bernard on Sep 12th, 2014

Where go the big kids, so go the little ones.

It's a founding precept of childhood: younger kids race constantly to catch up with older siblings. This means wearing the same clothes, watching the same shows, and clamoring for the same freedoms that their more seasoned counterparts enjoy.

But how should a parent proceed when a tween or younger child requests his or her own mobile device?

With extreme care.

Cells are great for keeping tabs on busy kids, but the risks and rewards are different for younger children. These tips, adapted from the National Consumer's League and TracFone Wireless, offer a blueprint for parents considering handing a cell to a pre-teen.

Set expectations.

What is the purpose of the phone? Is it for emergencies and family contact? Or is it for communicating with friends as well? If you're adding your kid to a family plan, agree to clear limits on usage to avoid racking up high costs. And no surprises. Set a consistent nightly curfew, and tell your kids if you plan to monitor phone content.

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Ask for a buy-in.

Cell phones are expensive. They are also easy to drop, smash, or leave behind, especially for distraction-prone kids. Asking your child to share in the cost of purchase will encourage more cautious behavior. And if you expect your child to pay for a lost or broken phone, say that, and mean it.

Have the awkward conversations.

Is your tween mature enough to say "No" to inappropriate content or to refrain from sending a photo that could land him or her in a heap of social or legal trouble? If a child can't handle a frank discussion about the risks inherent to unmonitored cell phone use, reconsider whether the privilege is appropriate.

Expect texts.

Texting is the preferred method of communication for kids ages 11-13, according to the National Consumers League, so be sure your plan offers plenty of texts per month. And when you want to communicate with your child on the quick, opt for texts; not phone calls. You'll hear back sooner.

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