Friday, August 29, 2008

Tweens and Cell Phones

Cell phones for kids are all the rage, but should your child have one?
It wasn't that long ago when tweens asked for walky talkies for their birthdays. A lot has changed since then. Todays tweens want cell phones and cell phone companies know it as they target the preteen market with phones that appeal directly to children. Family calling plans are reasonably priced and many have incorporated tweens and their cell phone habits into the package. It's estimated that approximately 10 percent of preteens already have cell phones, and you can bet the remaining 90 percent are jockeying to get one.

If your tween has asked you for a cell phone (and if she hasn't already, it's just a matter of time before she will) there are a number of considerations you'll want to mull over.
Does she really need a cell phone?

Probably not, but that doesn't mean that a cell phone is totally impractical. If your son has a very busy schedule, or a schedule that isn't always predictable, a cell phone could help you stay in touch and keep up to date on his whereabouts. The real question parents must ask themselves is whether or not their child has matured to the point where he can keep up with his phone and manage the plan's monthly minute limitations.

What are your rules and limitations?

Before you go out and purchase a phone and a plan you'll need to know about school rules regarding cell phones. More and more schools are not allowing cell phones on premises or are requiring that they be turned off completely during school hours, with consequences if they're not. If the whole idea behind purchasing the cell phone is to be able to contact your child at any time of day, you may decide the cost of the phone and the plan just isn't worth it.

Also, you'll want to consider appropriate disciplinary action should your child abuse his cell phone privileges or lose his cell phone altogether.

Does she know cell phone etiquette?

You're not doing your daughter (or society) any favors by buying her a cell phone and failing to educate her on appropriate cell phone behavior. Even tweens need to understand cell phone etiquette in order to save themselves from potentially embarrassing situations. Instruct your child on the basics, such as turning the phone to vibrate, excusing himself from others in order to carry on a phone conversation, and turning the phone off when in public settings. Incidentally, it's also important that your child understand that it's rude to take embarrassing pictures of his friends with his phone, or to use the phone to gossip about others, and otherwise behave badly.

Are they safe?

The jury is still out on this. In Europe, parents have been warned about the potential dangers caused by cell phones and the electromagnetic radiation they emit. As researchers continue to look into the potential harmful drawbacks of cell phone usage, it's best that you talk with your son or daughter about cell phone safety and encourage them to only use the cell phone when absolutely necessary. In addition, headsets are a good idea for tweens or teens who spend a lot of time on their phones and should be an option to consider.

It's important to remember that cell phones can give tweens and their parents a false sense of security. Make sure your son or daughter understands that all the safety precautions you've taught them over the years still apply. Children need to know that they should never put themselves in a risky situation, such as walking alone at night or catching a ride with a stranger, thinking that the cell phone will provide them with a safety net. It won't.

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