The Right Age
● By Aimee Cormier
To Gift Children Mobile Phones
Gadgets often top the list of desired gifts for the holiday season. Adults and children alike fawn over the latest technology, and giving a loved one a new phone, portable video game console, tablet or e-reader for the holidays is sure to please.
When gifting children with the latest tech gifts, parents typically ask themselves if a child is mature enough to handle the responsibility of having his or her own mobile phone. There is no clear-cut answer to this question, and it is up to the gift-giver to assess the maturity levels of the gift recipient as well as his or her behavior when considering giving the gift of a mobile phone.
Today’s cellular phones are much different from the ones that flooded the market 10 to 20 years ago. Although the concept of a mobile phone has been in place since the late 1940s, it wasn’t until 1983 that mobile phones became commercially available in North America. Phones once did little more than just dial a call, and even then service was spotty. Now phones are mini-computers, able to make and receive calls, take photos, access the Internet, download photos and text, provide GPS positioning, give directions, check e-mail, and so much more.
Such cell phones can be invaluable, but their accessibility often makes parents and guardians think twice about gifting children with a mobile phone. Those who are carefully considering purchasing a phone as a holiday gift for a tween may want to consider the following.
• Reliability: How well does the child take care of his or her belongings? Are keys constantly being lost? Are you often replacing items that were just purchased? If so, the child may not be ready for a cell phone. Although many mobile phone companies offer promotional prices on phones this time of year, buying a phone can still be a considerable expense. Adding insurance to that phone will cost even more. Cell phones may only be for children who have a good track record of caring for and keeping important belongings.
• Maturity level: Some children seem to be born wise beyond their years. Others are eternal Peter Pans. It is unwise to base a cell phone purchase simply on age alone. Parents typically have a grasp of their child’s maturity level, so it should be easy to determine if they are mature enough to handle the responsibility of a cell phone.
• Features: Mobile phones, particularly smartphones, offer a bevy of different features. From social networking to mapping physical locations, these phones can make children widely accessible from a communications standpoint. It can be quite easy for a child to take and share a photo with someone inappropriate, and vice-versa. Find out the reasons behind why your son or daughter wants the phone. Is it simply for texting, or is it to have emergency contact with home? Knowing the reasons why a child wants the phone may make the decision easier.
• Safety: Cell phones make it easier for parents to monitor their children when they are away from home, providing some peace of mind.
• School rules: In many institutions, cell phone use is prohibited during school hours or phones may not even be allowed on school property. This is something to keep in mind before purchasing.
• Accessibility: A child does not need a smartphone, so parents should buy a phone that doesn’t offer all of the bells and whistles. Not only will this cut down on the cost, it could help prevent irresponsible behavior as well.
Many children want their own cell phone, in part because they see their parents and others on the phone. But it’s wise to consider the pros and cons of giving children cell phones before telling children they can have one.