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Children and Emergency Phones
In a world where kids are increasingly networked through a variety of devices, many parents still hesitate to give them a cell phone. The argument for many is that they survived their childhoods perfectly fine without cell phones. Others worry that giving in to a cell phone can encourage consumerism among kids, as well as endless demands for other, more expensive items.
Then there’s the phone bill to consider. Despite all of these legitimate concerns, there may be a way to compromise, in the form of an emergency cell phone.
Benefits of Emergency Cell Phones
Thankfully, cell phones come with a number of features that allow parents to control their children’s use. In some models they can pre-program the numbers that the cell phone will be allowed to dial and use the built-in GPS to keep tabs on the child.
More importantly, it allows kids in those transition years to safely exercise their independence away from home while still being in close contact with their parents. When selecting a phone, compare different brands, plans and features. Some companies offer cell phones that were designed specifically for use as a child’s emergency phone. These models have plenty of features so that parents can control how the phone is used.
Setting Ground Rules
Before allowing a child to use a cell phone, discuss limits and guidelines with them to ensure that they understand. This can include who the child is allowed to contact, appropriate use (for example, no phones during meal times or at school), not lending the phone, texting, and remembering to keep the battery charged. Just as in real life, kids should be warned not to talk to strangers. If the phone has camera functionality, discuss acceptable versus inappropriate types of photo messaging.
Finally, parents should also discuss the monthly budget. Will the parents or child be paying for monthly usage? Perhaps parents might want to opt for a limited pre-paid amount to ensure that the bills do not get out of hand. A good way to seal the deal is by drawing up a mini contract of agreements between parents and child. Have both sides sign it. If the child breaks the rules, the parents can revoke cell phone privileges. Parents should review the child’s cell phone usage every now and then to check that they are sticking to the ground rule.
When is a Cell Phone Necessary?
Think about how many times our own parents have stayed up late at night worrying when we were out past our curfews. With an emergency cell phone, a child can contact their parent to let them know if they are delayed, lost, or in trouble. It certainly offers a great deal of peace of mind that outweighs any negative factors. In a large, crowded environment, such as the mall, a cell phone is helpful in helping parents track down a lost child.
In some cases, missing children have even been found due to cell phone tracking features. There are many unpredictable situations that could crop up, so it is best to be prepared.
When Should Kids Get Cell Phones?
Although it varies per family, the best time to give a child an emergency cell phone is when they start socializing with other friends away from home. They might be ten years old and heading to a friend’s house to play, or fifteen and going to the movies with friends. In cases where parents are considering giving their child a standard cell phone for regular use, it would be at the discretion of the parents.
Consider your child’s sense of responsibility. Are they mature enough to understand that the phone is only meant for emergency reasons, or are they carefree enough to rack up thousands in phone bills? Are they asking for a phone because they need it or as a bow to peer pressure?
Ultimately, a cell phone for kids is not something to shy away from. When used wisely, it can be an invaluable safety line that keeps children within reach even while they begin to stretch their wings. Parents should become aware of issues such as cyberbullying (which can happen on cell phones too!), sexting, and other inappropriate forms of cell phone use.
Inform children about it so that they can be aware and well prepared in case they ever happen upon this type of behavior. In setting guidelines, make sure they understand that their cell phones are meant for emergency use to keep them safe.