Every once in a while, I find myself being criticized for providing a cell phone for my daughter, Miki. Now that she is nine, I find this happens less, but a few years ago, I seemed to encounter this frequently. The topic came up again recently, so I thought I would address it here.
When I first thought of purchasing a cell phone for Miki, I put quite a lot of thought into it. After all, she was only seven, and I can understand the question “Why in the world does a seven-year-old need their own phone?” This is certainly an individual decision, and different circumstances may deem a cell phone for a young child a good idea. I did not like the idea of complete access to the outside world that a cell phone brings, however, so I purchased one with usage controls, and I use them. For along time, I was the only one who could call or text her, and she could only access me and 911. She has a little more freedom now, but not much more.
Here are my three reasons why my child has a cell phone:
1. I was looking for a creative tool to facilitate practicing her spelling, reading and writing skills. At this time, she did not like spelling AT ALL. Miki had always been fascinated by my phone, and loved to type letters on it, so I thought if she had her own phone, it would be fun to practice spelling words on it. It worked like a charm. I would call out the spelling word, and she would send me the spelling of it via text (I turned off the auto-correct feature). If it was incorrect, I would text her, and she would respell it. This quickly progressed into her texting me little messages, and having to read and respond my text messages. Great practice, and very effective.
2. Land lines are becoming less popular in homes, mine included, and I wanted to make sure she was familiar with cell phones and comfortable using one in the event of an emergency. I have no qualms there. Technology almost seems to be second nature for children today.
3. At the time I bought her the cell phone, we lived in a small neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming where it was appropriate for the kids to walk around the block or ride their bikes together. If she was out of site, I wanted to be able to communicate with her. As loud as I can be, hollering for her from the front yard didn’t work so well and gave me a headache. The cell phone proved to be very useful for emergency situations as well. Twice, a friend of hers wiped out on his bike and injured himself, so she called me immediately both times to come help. Another time, she was riding her bike with a friend and was around the corner, when the wind suddenly picked up. Now, for those of you not familiar with Wyoming winds, they can be very sudden and very strong. Well, the wind was too strong for the girls to ride their bikes or push them home, and she called for a mommy rescue.
Whether or not parents want to provide cell phones for their younger children is an individual decision. Not everyone needs one, and not all parents like the idea. Take a look at potential reasons, and determine if the reasons are compelling enough to justify the expense, and go from there. If you do purchase your child a cell phone, please be aware of safety considerations, use parental controls, and teach them to handle it responsibly.
If you have any children-and-cell-phone stories, I would love to hear them.