Teaching children to understand the responsibility of a cellphone
When Tristan Mills (now 14) was 11, his big sister passed her cellphone down to him. Truth was, his mother Jean Mills says, it was cheaper to give the phone to Tristan and keep it on their plan than to terminate the contract.
But that gift came with restrictions. “We told him the phone was to be used only for contacting us and for emergencies,” says Mills. “We explained about the costs of calls and texts, and how easy it is to forget how much things cost.” Since their normal routine was that Mills would pick her son up after school, having the cellphone helped on those days when she was running late, or Tristan had an unexpected after-school activity.
Tristan has impressed his parents by sticking to the rules. “Well, he did once text me that his friend got a puppy,” says Mills. “Tristan is the kind of kid who understood right away that having his own cellphone was a privilege.”
You’ll hardly see a teen these days who isn’t busily texting friends or chatting on her phone. Naturally, preteens want them too. But is a cellphone a good idea for your child? Maybe — but not without some careful consideration, says Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor of educational psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “You need to ask yourself if a child this age really needs a cellphone. Will it have a real function?”
Preteens should generally be under adult supervision, so the safety value of a cellphone is small, she feels. “And my experience is that a lot of kids this age lose their cellphones. So you have to consider what level of responsibility your child needs to demonstrate before getting a cellphone. For example, if half of her winter wardrobe is in the school lost and found, she is probably not ready for one.”