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What age is appropriate for a child to have a cell phone? This question has more than one answer. Owing to the present day scenario, some would want their child to have a cell phone as early as possible for safety reasons. But for most Indian parents, the answer would be, “as long as the child can do without.” Nobody really knows the ‘right’ age or time for a child to have a cell phone. Therefore, before getting into that, you must ask yourself a few questions as a parent:
- Why is a cell phone essential for my child?
- Is it just a desire or a requirement?
- Is my child mature and responsible enough to have a cell phone?
Once you have answers to these questions, you will know whether your child is ready to have a cell phone at her age.
How Do You Know If Your Child is Ready/Mature Enough For a Cell Phone?
No parent has an answer to this question, but some parents would like their child to have one only when they are of the appropriate age. However, it is important to understand that times have changed, and the world is not as safe for children as it used to be. After all, the main purpose of the cell phone is to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts. How do you know that your child is actually ‘ready’ or mature enough to handle having a cell phone? After all, it is not just an instrument you use to communicate, and having it means understanding its purpose and how to use it responsibly.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying a Smart Phone for Your Child
Every parent would want to buy what is best for their child, but should you give her a smartphone when a regular cell phone can serve the purpose?
Before handing over a brand new smartphone to your child, consider asking these questions to yourself.
1. Safety Reasons
Do you need to be in touch with your child since she has no one to accompany her to the school or her various co-curricular activity classes? If the answer is a “yes”, then you may have to get one for her for safety reasons.
Is an ordinary phone not enough to serve the purpose? If you want her to keep a mobile just for calling and informing purpose, then just an ordinary phone is good enough. However, if she requires one for other reasons like using social media or browsing the net etc., then a low-tech phone will not suffice.
3. Caring for Things
Does your child care about her things or is she careless and keeps on losing things? If you feel that your child is too careless with her things and loses things on and off, then having her ‘make do’ with an ordinary phone will be a wise move.
Will your child use the mobile responsibly and not keep indulging in it even during school hours and study time? Before giving a cell phone to her, make sure you read out the rules to her. You should make it clear that being on the phone at all times will not be allowed and she may even have to give away her phone as a punishment.
5. Concern for Others
Will your child be responsible enough to use a cell phone only for communication purposes and not to disturb or distract others? Tell your child that calling people and disturbing them at odd hours is not acceptable.
6. Internet Safety
Will she be able to distinguish between the right and the wrong content on the internet? Now, this could be tricky. Your child may not be at the age to understand the difference between right or wrong content. However, you have to sit her down and tell her the difference and what she is and is not allowed to view.
7. Economic Viability
Will it be economically viable for you to get a smartphone for your child? After all, the economics does not end with the buying the phone. After you hand over the smartphone, inform your child about the monthly expenses that come with it. You may give her a fixed budget in which she would have to make do with her phone bills. In case she exceeds the limit, you could deduct it from her pocket money.
How Can You Keep Your Child Safe on Mobile Phones?
By now, all of us know that there is no right age for a cell phone for your child. However, through surveys, it has been estimated that the average age to get a smartphone for a child is around 10 – 12 years. Given the present scenario which is unsafe for children, a cell phone becomes necessary so that we are aware of the whereabouts of our children. However, mobile phones can do more harm to our children than good if parents are not alert and cautious. Listed below are 6 tips to keep your child safe on mobile phones.
1. No Texting
Texting or talking over the phone while driving (in case of children are 18+ years) or even cycling, is dangerous. Therefore, let your child know the repercussions of doing so can be fatal. Instead, ask her to stop driving or cycling when she has to text or take a call. Just a 2 minute stop will not make any difference after all.
2. Limited Phone Time
It is essential to restrict phone time. Before you give your child a phone, tell her that she is strictly prohibited from using or keeping her phone with her at all times. For example, during family time, dinner time or if you are having guests over, she should refrain from using her phone.
3. Cyber Bullying
You must tell your child that if anyone tries to bully or harass her online or through text messages, it is not ok. In such a case, she must immediately inform you. Also, tell her that doing the same to others can cause harm to the other person and her as well and that the repercussions could be bad on both the sides.
4. Sharing Personal Information
Nowadays it is common for everyone to be on social media, more so for children. However, do warn them against sharing personal information like her address, phone number, personal photos etc. to strangers.
5. Online Shopping
You should also prohibit your child from buying things online. She may buy game apps or additional contents and features which can be a pure waste of money.
6. Customized Tariff Plans
Apart from the ones mentioned above, you can (with the help of service providers) purchase plans which will make it safer for your child and also not weigh heavy on your pocket.
The best way to make cell phones safe for your child is through parental guidance and alertness. Parents should regularly monitor their child’s phone usage and content. Limiting screen time should also be made mandatory, or else it can prove to be detrimental for the child.