Yes, your kid needs a cellphone. I’m not going to tell you a specific age, but it should be before high school.
Whenever I give a presentation on internet safety, I talk about the many dangers of the internet, as well as how parents can educate themselves and have meaningful conversations with their children about all of it.
There will always be someone in the audience — or in the comments section of every story I write — who says, “This is exactly why I will never buy my child a cellphone.” To which I say, then you are setting up your child to be disadvantaged in many aspects of life.
Right now in the United States, 100 percent of people ages 18-29 own a cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center. One hundred percent. So, obviously, the kids whose parents denied them a cellphone while living at home went out and bought one after they turned 18 anyway.
I feel the majority of what I write about focuses on possible dangers. So today, here are just some of the reasons I think every child should have a cellphone.
How many times have you rushed from work to pick up your kid from soccer practice, only to get there to wait 30 minutes because practice started late? A phone allows your child to send a quick text so you don't waste your time.
Or flip it and think of when you are running late picking up your child from dance because of traffic. Instead of your daughter being worried you have forgotten her, you shoot her a quick message.
Another convenience is the tracking features that some may call stalking, but I call parenting. It’s nice to be able to check with a few taps (and without nagging) to see if your child has made it to play practice or to a friend’s house.
I’ll never forget the first time I found out my friend had a mobile phone. Another driver hit us and my friend pulled over, yanked a large bag out of her console, unzipped it and pulled out a huge brick phone. It was such a relief that she had the ability (only to be used in emergencies) to call the police and her parents.
Today, who knows what type of emergencies our children could have? It could be a car accident. It could also be feeling uncomfortable at a party when everyone starts drinking alcohol. A cellphone can be a lifesaver for a teenager to notify someone for help.
The navigational tools are helpful too. When kids start driving, teaching them how to use these (hands-free) can save them from a lot of stress and from getting lost.
Just like buying a dog to teach responsibility, a phone helps children learn how to do things for themselves. Teens can use reminders for schoolwork or tasks for church or clubs.
They can also check their own calendars to keep track of practices and work schedules. And their phone is with them all the time, so no writing down something on their hand until they jot it down on a physical calendar.
Remember, kids want these phones and — if mature enough — will take care of them. Plus, they likely won’t tire of them (like with a dog), and you won’t get stuck with them when they head off to college.
Yes, students could do these on a laptop, but it’s great that they can use their phones to catch up while you’re driving them to band practice. A phone also gives students an easy way to check their grades to be more responsible for their own educational success.
There is no doubt that children communicate most with their friends though phones. Of course, they hang out together and still talk for hours, but they make all the plans through social media or texting.
If your child doesn’t have the ability to text or use social media, will they be left out? Maybe. Maybe not. But they will definitely feel more connected to their peers with these options in hand. And don't forget family.
My kids text their grandparents and FaceTime with cousins who live states away. The ability of aunts and uncles and Cousin Taylor to keep up with (and be supportive of) your children's lives through social media is invaluable.
We are preparing our children to be independent thinkers and problem-solvers. We are not preparing our children to be 20-somethings who need parents to hold their hand every step of adulthood. A cellphone is a good way to help kids — with supervision — become responsible, connected citizens of this digital world.
Yes, there are downsides, but don’t let thoughts of those disadvantages take you too far in the extreme. Decide which age is right for your child, and buy them a phone. Then guide them with lots of encouragement and communication into their cellphone-wielding future.