Have you weighed these cell phone pros and cons before allotting your child his very own seven digits?

What You Need to Know

Even for kids, cell phones have become an everyday essential, with ownership statistics of:

  • 22% of 6 to 9-year-olds
  • 60% of 10 to 14-year-olds
  • 84% of 15 to 18-year-olds

Cell Phone Pros:

  • Safety in emergency situations – 74% of Americans have used cell phones in emergencies, and emergency agencies are encouraging cell phone users to put “ICE” (in case of emergency) in front of corresponding contact names; and phones using GPS technology allow parents to track the location of a phone and, ideally, their child.
  • Convenience of being able to reach your child immediately, or vice verse, in the event of a delay or change of plans

Cell Phone Cons:

  • Health risks:
    • Addictive, problematic use linked to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression
    • Cyberbullies torment victims through text messaging
    • Eye strain and “digital thumb” resulting from continual focusing on small screen and small buttons.
    • Bacteria exposure due to close proximity to the mouth after being used indiscriminately in locations including restrooms
  • Expenses due to ring tones; text, picture and video messaging; downloadable games, overage minutes and connecting to internet – all very popular among teens

How You Can Help:

  • Discuss your child's motivation for having a cell phone to drive discussion about its use for safety rather than as a status symbol.
  • Discuss and develop a set of cell phone user rules, such as, “Always answer calls from parents immediately,” and guidelines for turning them off at night and leaving them in a common area.
  • Discuss bill payment – many parents limit usage for younger kids, then let older kids take responsibility for their own cell phone bills. Consider a prepaid plan with limited minutes.
  • Discuss appropriate circumstances for usage – 82% of people report feeling annoyed by loud or personal conversations in public.
  • Consider a child-friendly cell phone designed especially for youth, allowing you to control who can call or be called.
  • Teach your kids to only answer calls or view texts from people they know to avoid cyberbullying, sexual predators, and scams.

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