While the idea of having a cell phone in elementary school was about as far-fetched as landing on the moon for today’s parents, there’s no denying the fact that technology has evolved at a rapid enough pace to make that situation a very feasible one for kids just a generation later. Determining when your child is ready for the responsibility of a cell phone is so largely dependent upon the maturity level of your youngster’s unique temperament that there’s really no hard and fast answer, but one thing is certain: determining what kind of cell phone to purchase for your child can be a confusing mess.
Take Control of the Situation
Just because you’ve decided to relent to your child’s pleas for a phone as a reward for her mature and responsible behavior does not mean that you’re automatically required to shell out big bucks for the model for which she’s begging. Kids may not have a clear understanding of just how expensive or how powerful those devices can be; they only understand that the latest high-end model will be considered “cool” by their friends. The first step to choosing a phone for your child is to realize that you’re granting permission for her to own the phone of your choosing, not to make demands regarding the model and brand.
Avoid Choosing Form Over Function
If your child is a tween or very young teen, all she really needs a phone to do is make calls and send text messages. A wealth of features that will allow her to generate spreadsheets, manage a hectic professional schedule or balance her budget are superfluous, and the ability to access games and social media apps from a handheld device could mean that she’s also able to access questionable content. Instead of considering flashy models that also tend to be delicate, look for no-frills phones of sturdy construction. Even the most cautious child will, at some point, drop or lose control of their phone. Basic models are often more rugged, and are almost always more easily replaced should they be damaged or broken.
Keep Her Unique Needs in Mind
Just as there is no set age at which a child is deemed “ready for a cell phone,” there is no real way to choose a one-size-fits-all phone option for your youngster. Very small children may not be mature enough to keep up with the newest smartphone, but some elementary-age kids with level heads and an affinity for learning apps may be well suited to own a smartphone with the right tracking and monitoring features in place. It may be less expensive in the long run to purchase a feature-packed model for your high school student that doubles as a graphing calculator and study aid, rather than buying several devices that could all be replaced with one smartphone. At the same time, a tech-savvy teenager with a track history of looking up questionable content or engaging in cyberbullying may do better with a base model phone that doesn’t have strong Internet capabilities. Keep the needs of your particular child in mind when you visit the store or start browsing for phones, rather than settling upon a model arbitrarily chosen as age-appropriate by other people.
Be On the Lookout For Kid-Specific Phones
There are a surprising number of cell phones available on the market today that have been designed specifically with the youngest users in mind. These phones have fewer buttons and very limited features, are easy to keep up with and can even be restricted in dialing ability so that only emergency services and numbers that you’ve pre-programmed can be accessed. If you’re making a purchase for your young child, don’t forget to ask about or look into phones that were designed with her needs and developmental abilities in mind.
Talk to Your Coverage Provider
Chances are, adding another line to your account will raise your bill noticeably, which means that you may need to keep prices down wherever possible. Talk to agents and representatives of your existing cell phone company to determine what your options are, ways you can keep usage under control and which phones are more likely to meet your child’s needs. These professionals will be able to give you a tour of the available phones, as well as a rundown of all their features and functions.
Take the time to do your homework when it comes to choosing a phone for your child, as this can be a costly investment. Furthermore, choosing the wrong model could present a distraction in school or during homework time, detrimentally impacting her academic performance. Make sure that the phone you choose has the features your child needs, but think twice about bells and whistles that could turn the device into a dangerous distraction.
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Be an educated parent, you will have safer kids.