The pluses and minuses of children having cell phones
Last year, I was shocked when my daughter, then 10 years old, asked me for a cell phone. I had visions of her talking to her friends all day and night. I asked her why she needed a cell phone. She told me it was to be able to speak with me or her mother when she needed to. The advantages of my 11-year-old having a cell phone are many. I have her take the phone to all her sports and after-school activities, allowing her to contact me or my wife if there is any change in schedule or one of us is late. Because it’s a pre-paid phone, the number of minutes remaining are always on the face of the phone, so there is never a surprise when a bill comes. When we purchased the phone, I made my daughter pay for it with her own money, handing the funds to the clerk at Wal-Mart. This is a good way for a child to understand the value and cost of an item like a cell phone. On the other hand, there are drawbacks to allowing your child to have a cell phone. For some parents, a cell phone is the way they try to supervise their children. This is a mistake. While being able to reach your children on their cell phone is a handy tool for parents, it should not be a substitute for proper supervision. This is particularly true for children 10 and under. For parents of older teenagers who spend time with their friends, it is important to know where your teenager is and what he/she is doing. Do not assume your teenager will be safe because she has a cell phone. Do not assume your child will not be at a party where alcohol and drugs are present. Be aware of where your teenager is and who he is with at night. Make an effort to speak with the parents of your child’s friends. Good communication with other parents is a very important step in properly supervising your teenager.The Firefly and TicTalk are two new cell phones specifically available to children under 10 years. These phones allow a parent to set the phone to only call four numbers of the parent’s choosing. The buttons are coded with symbols for “Mom” or “Dad” or 911. These phones may be a good option as a safety phone for your child.Cell phones can be a big help with keeping track of children. However, they cannot substitute for proper supervision of a child at any age. While parents view the cell phone as a way to keep in touch with a child, many kids view their cell phone as a way to keep in touch with each other. If a child of any age is not being responsible with the use of their cell phone, don’t be afraid to take it away. The child should be taught that there are consequences for violating rules that you have clearly set.Bruce Benjamin, president of the YouthZone Board of Directors, has been with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years, and for the past 14 years has been the juvenile investigator. He is in charge of all child-abuse cases and cases involving children committing crime. Bruce lives in Basalt with his wife and daughter.
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