Getting Your Child a Cell Phone This Summer? Read This First!

It’s summer 2013…

…and lots of families will soon purchase a new mobile phone for a fifth, sixth, or seventh grade child.

cell phoneRemember, however, you are not just handing over a telephone. A child is getting a mini-computer — a digital device  that takes pictures, shares locations, communicates via text, e-mail, and phone calls, and easily installs apps that connect in all sorts of other ways. A new cell phone networks your child in nearly unlimited ways to the entire world, and most of what he or she sends on the web via cell phone will never be deleted.

Before handing over the new mobile device, 21st Century parents need to think about how they want digital kids to use their new prized possessions and also about what they don’t want children to do.

Adults can be specific and clear about what is acceptable by setting up a cell phone user contract. Use an agreement word-for-word from the list of links on this blog. Or copy one of the contracts as a template and write a more personalized version that is appropriate for your family. Today’s kids are 21st Century learners, eager to use and explore the digital world — a great way to be — but parents need to set clear expectations that help to ensure that a child explores and experiments as much as possible without humiliation and  embarrassment.           

Also, think about how your family plans to address the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), the law that sets limits about what is accessible — and what’s not — for children younger than age 13. For instance, the minimum age for the Instagram app users is 13 (due to COPPA regulations), but that hasn’t stopped the site from attracting many children younger than that, often with their parents’ permission. While I tend to be someone who takes age requirements seriously, many parents, after checking out various apps, are more comfortable than I am with letting their kids use sites when they are younger than 13 years of age.

Read this peer-reviewed research about parents, children, and social media including explanations about why children falsify their ages with adult sanctions.

Have you thought about who will be in charge of the iTunes or other app store passwords, the master keys to the world of apps downloading? Most experts believe that parents should not hand over this password.

About a year ago the Techlicious blog published an information-filled post, with resources for parents who want to learn more about features and limits-setting as they go about considering whether to purchase a cell phone for a child. In her May 28, 2012 piece Suzanne Kantra describes some of the parental control packages on the market at large mobile phone carriers. You might also want to read this PBS article, When Should You Get Your Child a Cell Phone?, written by Liz Perle, who is affiliated with Common Sense Media.

Below are a few past MediaTechParenting blog posts on mobile phones and kids.

2 thoughts on “Getting Your Child a Cell Phone This Summer? Read This First!

  1. I think it is ok for kids to get cellphones. It all really depends on the age of the child and the parent. Some parents love to know where their children are at, at all times. It also has to do with finding an affordable plan for your kids because you don’t want to pay 100 bucks a month on a child’s cellphone bill every month.

  2. I completely agree that you should have the right to monitor your children. It is a dangerous world out there. I have http://www.cellphonesleuth.com which allows parents to monitor their kids phone and activities. I agree with full disclosure and that you children shouuld know that their access is beining monitored.

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