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Your Child's First Cell Phone

Managing Your Child's Use of a Cell Phone

Thirty years ago, no one had a cell phone. Today, walk outside and it seems like everyone has a phone glued to their ears -- including elementary school kids.

"Kids mature differently and parents want their kids to be connected for different reasons, so it all depends on how you plan to have your child use the phone," says Jennifer Shu, M.D., author of The American Academy of Pediatrics Baby and Child Health. "Overall, having a cell phone and learning to use it responsibly can be an excellent teaching opportunity for young kids."

If you're considering this for your family, make sure that your child is responsible enough not to lose it (or that you can find one cheap enough that it won't hurt when she does). You might also want to consider switching to a plan that prevents your child from racking up outrageous bills.

Before you decide to let your child have one, ask around:

  • Do all her friends have one? What do her teacher or sports coaches think about a child her age having one?
  • Find out if she's allowed to have one at school. Many schools ban children from even bringing one into the building.
  • You should also investigate the best kind of phones for a child her age. Many parents opt for pre-paid or pay-as-you-go versions so they can limit the number of calls made by their child. Or, if you're adding your child to your family's cell phone plan, find out if the cell phone company can disable some of the more expensive options on the phone.

Cell Phone Etiquette


Finally, one of the keys to allowing your child to have a cell phone is to teach her the right way to speak on it in public.

"Move to a corner of the space you're in, to the edge of the hall, or entirely out of the room. Don't come back until you've finished your call and turned off the phone," explains Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D., authors of Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids.

Just as important: Talk with your child about keeping her voice low and her conversations short.

If your child does carry a cell phone, make sure she knows which places prohibit them -- or request that they be turned off -- such as places of worship, movie theaters, and airplanes.

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