Raising kids in a new era of technology: Cell phones

In this series, we are discussing children and technology, specifically how parents can use technology as an asset. 

Parents: how many of you have heard the infamous plea, “Can I get a cell phone, please?” The insistence is strong, and the ages of the kids who are asking keeps getting younger and younger. What is an appropriate age? Should age even be the determining factor? What parameters should be considered?

Let’s explore both sides of the argument, from pros to cons, in these six points for parents who are trying to make a decision about when to allow their child to have a cell phone.

Pros

1. Tracking. On a cell phone, you can add tracking apps, such as Life360, which let you see where your family is located at all times. This can give you peace of mind when your child is attending extracurricular activities or play dates.
 
2. Communication. With a cell phone, you have all forms of communication in one device. Video calls, texting, phone calls; it is all available to fit your family’s needs. This is generally the biggest sell, as some of the other devices like tablets or smartwatches only have limited ways of communication. 

3. Responsibility. With owning a cell phone comes great responsibility. This is a great way to teach our children to take care of their belongings. In addition, cell phones can be used as consequences; for example, if your child is not responsible with it, then it can be taken away as a consequence. 

Cons

1. Unsupervised internet access. Thankfully there are parental controls on cell phones. However, owning a phone gives children internet access at their fingertips. It is not realistic for us to say our children won’t explore the web if we are not vigilant. With this comes a lot of possible issues, as they have access to more than we would probably want them to have. 

2. Distraction. If we have our children carry their phone to school for tracking purposes, they may be tempted to use it during school hours. Depending on their level of maturity, this can create a distraction to their learning and may get them into trouble at school. 

3. Screen time. Since a cell phone serves many purposes, it can be addicting to children and therefore offer unlimited screen time when they have not yet learned how to manage this high level of responsibility. Again, parental controls can help with this.

There are several reasons why a cell phone may be beneficial, but not all situations are the same. What works for one child may or may not make sense for another, and hopefully these pros and cons will help in those considerations.

What other pros and cons would you include? Let us know at @ArizonaEducator on X (formerly Twitter) or Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook.

Review the other articles in our series on children and technology:

 

About the author

Marissa Will is the mother of two, Olivia (6) and Logan (4). Writing was her first passion: she’s a freelance writer and a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication alumna. Will is currently educating the future leaders of tomorrow: She has spent the past nine years educating third grade with a master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University-Yuma.

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