Anyone remember the first successful consumer two-way pager called the “Pageboy?” It was a device that preceded the flip phone made by Motorola. The pager was used to communicate via text message and email with standard responses. You could also connect it to your computer to download longer messages.
We’ve come a long way since 1995 when our daughter started with communication technology. As mentioned in our last Newsletter — imagine what technology will look like in 30 years. If we have come from a pager to Artificial Intelligence (AI), what’s next? For now, let’s just stick to the cell phone.
When Should Kids be Allowed a Cell Phone?
I am not exactly sure the age we decided to let our daughter have a pager, but I believe it was around 12. As she started to explore life on her own and gain some independence, it was a great way for us to connect with her, and for her if she needed us. I bet she’d say it was a way to keep track of her, and maybe secretly inside me it was. Whatever the reason it was a handy device in its day.
Today’s parents are dealing with a much larger beast — the famous “cell phone”. I’m sure the intention for allowing kids to have these devices is similar. However, it comes with a lot more pressure on parents. It seems that kids with devices are getting younger and younger and there is way more to consider now than the simplicity of a two-way standard message.
Cell Phones or Smartphones have the ability to access almost anything a computer can and its right at their fingertips. As a parent this would terrify me. We have all heard horror stories around predators and kids and that’s just plain scary to think about. I can only imagine what’s going through some parent’s minds when making this BIG decision.
There are many factors to consider before handing over a cell phone to our kids. An important piece to the equation is how the process and discussion around successfully managing the cell phone is communicated. Setting everyone up for success is key and that comes with making sure that the “lines” of communication are open and up for discussion, negotiation and debate.
Timing — The Right Time
Every parent has a decision to make about their kids and cell phones sooner or later, and when is the right time to embark on allowing them to have a cell phone.
The important part is that the decision is a collaboration between you and your kids. Allowing your kids to be involved in every aspect is important.
Some considerations might be:
- What type of device?
- How much will it cost?
- Who pays for it?
- What does it get used for?
- What happens if it goes missing?
- How old should they be?
Interesting Facts to Know
One survey that I came across, surveyed more than 800 users — out of those 800 users, 77% of students got their first cell phone between the ages of 10 and 17, with only 1% reporting having never had one.
Some of the main pros and cons that surfaced around kids and cell phones are:
What are some other factors to consider before giving in to the: “I NEED a cell phone” cries?
Children can become addicted to their cell phones and devices. Are you worried about your child’s device usage?
There is a lot of controversy around technology and the amount of time spent using devices. The key considerations for each family can be very different depending on your views and family values. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to discuss this decision with your kids and allow them to be involved in the decision-making process.
The biggest mistake that I made as a parent was always controlling their decisions — the term for that today is: “helicopter parent.” Yikes, it makes me cringe today to think that I was that parent because after raising four children and looking back — trying to control my kids was a serious mistakes that caused fractures in our relationships. You’ll be happy to know that my kids still love me but there has been a lot of damage control on my part to repair these relationships.
I’m hoping that by giving you some solid research, and fuel for thought, you won’t make similar mistakes with your kids.
The most important advice that I can give you — way all the factors around making this very important decision. I’ve summarized some below from articles that I’ve read.
What the Research is Showing on Kids and Cell Phones
Research and studies show that parents are becoming more and more concerned around technology and the amount of time being spent. By not allowing your kids to be involved in the process you aren’t giving them the necessary tools to make decision for themselves, and in turn, learn from their mistakes. There WILL BE mistakes, LOTS of them!!!
Something to think about — rather than limiting their time and controlling all aspects of their lives, how about we give them some control over managing their technology. If they weigh in on the decision, then it makes them partly responsible. The more responsibility you give your kids, the more ownership they’ll have over their decisions and they won’t be able to blame you when something doesn’t work out. Your kids will be forced to own it, learn from it and hopefully make better decisions next time.
When it comes to technology, it’s important to let kids become good at being indistractable.
Why? Because in the future, there will be two kinds of people in the world: Those who let their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who proudly call themselves “indistractable.”
Build Your Kids Up – Make them Responsible
Here’s some interesting research by Amy Morin, a Psychotherapist who shared the 7 biggest parenting mistakes that destroy kids confidence and self-esteem:
- Letting them escape responsibility
- Preventing them from making mistakes
- Protecting them from their emotions
- Condoning a victim mentality
- Being overprotective
- Expecting perfection
- Punishing rather than disciplining
Empowering our children with autonomy to control their own time is much more valuable than controlling every decision.
We need to gift our kids with our trust, and allow them some autonomy to make their own decisions and mistakes. When kids make their own decisions and fail — there are valuable lessons to be learned. Making mistakes will teach them to manage their decisions on their own and make them better thinkers, problem solvers and managers.
Communication and Texting
Communicating is hard at the best of times, let alone via text messages that get construed. I’ll be continuing this very important research on kids and cell phones and putting together some ideas around communicating with our kids and technology.
Stay tuned for Part II of this very important dilemma of when to give your kid their first cell phone.