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The older I get, the more I believe there is too much technology for kids. At the same time, technology has added so much convenience to my life, as well as an ability to remain connected to people far away. Do I really want to keep that from my kids? When should kids have their own cell phones?
My views on the age a child should have a cell phone have changed with the times. When my older daughter Kira wanted a cell phone at 12, I laughed. This was back in 2002 when MySpace was the teen hangout and Facebook was still merely a thought on a college campus. By the time Kira’s younger sister was 11, she had an iPhone.
- We no longer have a land line.
- The older kids lived in other parts of the country, so connecting with older brother and sister required FaceTime.
- My son has epilepsy. If I ever wanted to be able to leave the house without my kids in tow, I needed to have a way to reach them and for them to call me.
My son also has an iPhone. They are the basic iPhone 5Cs with 8 gigs that Verizon was giving away like candy; nothing special. But our family hit the tipping point where it was cheaper and easier for everyone to have their own individual phone than to keep paying a phone company. And it meant the kids could stay after school or go to dance class or hang out with friends and be able to keep in touch with me to know when they were done.
With iPhone Comes Responsibility
We did not hand over cell phones to our kids without a long list of rules, however:
- They are not allowed to have SnapChat, KIK, Whisper or any of the other “dangerous” teen apps – and we do check their phones
- The phones are not allowed at meals
- They have to have our permission to text, make calls, download an app, or do anything other than text us (yes, even the 15-year old)
- The phone does not go to school with them (unless there is an after-school activity, in which case it stays off and in the locker until after school)
What I’ve decided, with both social media and cell phones, is that I’d rather have my kids experiment and make mistakes and learn now to use the technology at their fingertips responsibly while we still have some influence over them and can guide them. In addition to cell phones, the kids have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Technology for kids is not going away; the best we can do as parents is be actively involved in helping them learn how to use it safely.