24 Oct 2012

What Age Is Appropriate ? (Teens & Mobile Phones)

There is so much controversy over what age is appropriate to give your child a mobile phone.
I myself don't believe that there is any "magic" age, or any hard and fast rules about what age, is the right age to provide your child with a phone. All families and their situations are different, and so I believe it should be left up to the individual parent to make their own decision on what is best for their child.

Being in the "in" crowd means the world to teenagers, and if I am to be honest, this has always been the case, and is nothing new (I know it mattered to me how I was perceived in high school). Hanging out with the popular kids, being invited to their parties, and staying up to date with the latest technology and gadgets taking the world by storm, are on the minds of ALL teenagers.
Mobile phones have become very popular, and data shows that 76% of kids between the ages of 12-14 and 90% of kids ages 15-17 are mobile owners/uses, and having the "right" phone can become the be all, and end all, a "fashion statement" a "status symbol", and because mobiles have become the primary way that teens communicate, if your teen is "phone less", they may feel that they are being left out in the cold, but even though your teen may see being the owner of a mobile phone is a "cool factor magnet", most parents have an entirely different view, reliability is usually the first and foremost aspect of the phone that parents look for, not the latest and most expensive. Yes, kids will argue that your choice is not the "greatest" or the "coolest" and its not fair if they cant have the one they want, the one that the "cool" kids have, but remember that you are the parent (I have to remind my kids of this fact all the time, especially when they try to override my decisions, which they try to do ALL the time) try reminding them that any phone is better then no phone at all.

Like it or not, judge us if you will, but our boys were given a mobile when they started High School, mainly as a safety precaution, so that they always had a way to contact us when they were away from home, and so that we, their parents would be able to keep a track of their whereabouts (or at least do our best to try), and we also found that it gave them a sense of responsibility (and yes, it was a basic phone, no glamour or technical genius)
If your family decides to go ahead and provide your child with a phone, bare in mind that the way a teenager uses a phone is completely different to the way that adults do, and sitting down and discussing a few basic rules of use is a must !

  • Make sure that the number is only given out to people you know and trust
  • Program your number under ICE (emergency contact number) 
  • Let your child know that you are contactable at any time that you are needed, especially in an emergency
  • Discuss usage and cost. Set a monthly budget. I recommend starting out on pre-paid, that way you can keep track of their usage and you don't get the shock of a massive bill in the mail
  • Discuss phone etiquette and appropriate ways to use a mobile
  • Tell them that at any time you ask, you will be checking the content on their phone
  • Make sure that your child is aware that any inappropriate use will end up with the phone being confiscated
When we decided to allow our boys to have a mobile phone, we made it very clear that these rules were to be followed at all times, no matter what, and so far touch wood  we have had a successful mobile experience.

A mobile phone will become very important to your child, it will become a networking tool, and will provide them with a sense of belonging and ownership, and this is where the responsibility of owning a phone comes into action.
If you are in the middle of considering whether or not to allow your child to own a mobile, good luck, it is a big responsibility, a hard decision to make and one that shouldn't be taken on board lightly.

A necessary evil ? Or a fashion statement ?
The choice is yours 


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