It's 2012, which means that most parents aren't discussing whether their kids will own a cell phone, but rather when their kids will own a cell phone. The process of purchasing a cell phone for your child should involve a lot more than discussions about the type of phone and the plan. It should center on cell phone safety. Cell phone use and ownership is prevalent -- even among kids. In fact, according to SafetyWeb, lots of kids have cell phones.
- 22 percent of children between the ages of six and nine own a cell phone
- 60 percent of tweens between the ages of 10 and 14 own a cell phone
- 84 percent of teens own a cell phone
Yes, you read that correctly. Almost one-quarter of kids who are 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old have cell phones. And while safety for this young group is extremely important, don't overlook the fact that tweens and teens need a lot of guidance as well.
Let's talk about sex(ting)
One of the more newsworthy issues when it comes to kids, tweens and teens using their cell phones is sexting. Teens sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves with their cell phones is a big deal -- one that can have long-term repercussions. How can you prevent it?
"As with any difficult conversation, I recommend finding a time when both you and your child are in a comfortable, non-threatening place," suggest the experts from SafetyWeb. " We recommend starting by telling your child that your number one priority is their safety and well-being.
You might want to consider admitting your own vulnerabilities. For example, tell your child that you don't know everything about technology... but that you do know that texts, words and photos can live forever on a website and/or be sent around to many, many people causing embarrassment or regret for years to come."
They break it down very simply, suggesting you tell your kids that a good rule of thumb is this: if you don't want your grandma to see it, don't text it.
Do young kids need cell phones?
With all of the things that can go wrong, you might ask yourself whether you child really needs a cell phone. When discussing the under 10 set, it's a personal family decision. "What may be right for one family may not be right for another.
And while 'need' is a strong word, there can be good reasons for giving a child under 10 a cell phone," explain the SafetyWeb experts. "For example, if a child spends a lot of time in transit without parental guidance, e.g., on school buses, giving a cell phone to a child for emergency situations can put both parents and child more at ease."
Cell phone safety tips for kids
If you've made the decision to give your child, tween or teen a cell phone, follow these SafetyWeb safety tips.
Educate and prepare. Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences associated with inappropriate cell phone use. Important issues including sexting and texting while driving.
Select appropriate phone features. Determine what features your child needs based on his age. Does your 10-year-old really need web browsing capabilities?
Use parental controls. Learn what parental controls are available to you -- e.g., restrictions on websites through the web browser -- and use them.
Limit usage. Designate time slots for phone use ahead of time. Cell phone calls and texting shouldn't interrupt dinner or family time, occur during school or cut into sleep time.
Consider monitoring services. If you feel it's appropriate, you can opt to monitor your child's cell phone usage. SafetyWeb provides parents with alerts and reports on their child's cell phone calls and text messages. If you want to know when they're using their phone -- e.g., at night, during school, etc. -- or with whom they're talking/texting the most, monitoring might be for you.
Screen calls. Make sure your child knows not to answer the phone if she doesn't recognize the number. Likewise, texts from unknown numbers shouldn't receive responses.
Protect the phone number. Ensure your child knows not to give out his cell phone number to just anyone or to publish it on social networking sites like Facebook.
Use download caution. Ringtones, games and other downloads can really add up expense-wise and can have hidden bugs. Set rules for downloading ahead of time.