In Cyber Safety

Cell Phones for Kids and The Alternatives

Cell Phones for Kids

Cell Phones for Kids are very popular, if not a necessity these days. Children in particular are very technologically versed in wireless technology. As parents, we need to at least try to keep in the loop.
Today, two main platforms exist for cell phones; the Android and Apple’s I-Phone. Both platforms are easily learned by kids of any age, although they would probably best be suited for children who are 8 or older. If your child absolutely insists on their own phone and they have a harder time grasping touch-screen technology, consider a “dumb phone”.

Then there’s the matter of cost. Many parents have a hard time shelling out any significant amount of money for a cell phone for their child. Consider a used phone. Many times the used phones available from your cell phone provider carry a warranty and are in great shape. Another option is to go with a slightly older model of phone. For example, instead of the current I-Phone 5 try the I-Phone 4. Now, the one thing to be cautious of when getting a used phone or older model phone is that kids do and will compare phones. So expect the day when little Johnny comes home sad about his I-Phone 4 because his friend Billy has the I-Phone 5. As a parent you need to decide if you want to fight that battle.

When considering either the Android or the I-Pod, consider what phone Mom and Dad carry so that they are compatible with one another. Of course all phones can call or text each other, but Mom and Dad may want to be able to sync up with their child’s phone just so that they can see exactly what is going on or even just to stay on the same account as a family.

Another consideration when thinking about cell phones for kids is that parental monitoring will be necessary, particularly with smart phones that have access to the internet from virtually anywhere. As a parent you’ll want to monitor who your child is calling or texting for both safety and so that there are no nasty surprises when the end of the billing cycle comes. Don’t be afraid to get a little nosy. Your child’s safety and your pocket book may depend on it. The internet is like the Wild West and who knows what your child can end up hooking up with. Help your child navigate the rough seas of the internet and don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your child. Make sure that they are aware of who they can and can’t contact on their phone and when. Then make sure that they know that you can find out exactly what they’ve been up to.

With cell phones having so many abilities, it is also very important to make sure that they know the acceptable time to use their phone. Using the phone during school, study time, family time, or when interacting with others may be some “no-phone” times. This may be more difficult to teach because some adults have a hard time with this concept, and children look to adults to set the example. Make sure that as a parent, you are setting the right example when it comes to phone etiquette.

Also consider if your child’s phone is compatible with their friends’ phones if they have phones. If they aren’t compatible, get ready for the complaining about the apps that Billy can get on his I-Phone but Johnny can’t get on his Android. This is a battle that can actually be avoided as a parent with a little bit of research into your child’s life.

Regardless of the phone, your child will need a durable case. One could make the case that as a parent; the cell phone case is the most important aspect of the phone outside of its workability. Children are notoriously tough on their possessions. Whether it’s left outside overnight or its just dropped a lot and hard, the case needs to protect the phone from any situation. Some common names for durable cell phone cases that you’ll see are the Otter Box or the Griffin Survivor.

  • Otter Box: The Otter Box is quite durable and perhaps even more important, it’s waterproof. Being waterproof, it can withstand being left outside in the pouring rain or overnight with heavy dew. Here once again, the price conscious parent may flinch a little bit at the cost, but to protect the investment of the phone it may be worth the money.
  • Griffin Survivor: The Griffin Survivor is extremely durable and won’t let in the dust and dirt that can damage the buttons of the phone or scratch the screen. It is not however, waterproof. The Griffin Survivor is military grade so it can handle whatever punishment that kids can dish out, short of being dropped in the water.

Regardless of which case you decide to get, know that color is important especially in the eyes of children. The kicker is that just because they love the color today doesn’t mean that they will like the color next week, or tomorrow for that matter. Once again, Johnny loves his blue case today but he may really love Billy’s black case tomorrow. This is another time that as a parent you need to be prepared for a potential issue.

If you aren’t ready as a parent or you feel that your child isn’t ready for the troubles that a cell phone brings, consider an alternative to the cell phone. Try an I-Pod or possibly a tablet. I-Pods and tablets have many of the same apps as cell phones, but they can take away some of the worry of data usage on the family account. Your child will still be able to communicate with friends or other family members via Skype as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. Many times if a Wi-Fi connection is not available, Mom or Dad can use their phone as a personal Wi-Fi “hotspot”. This is nice because the child must ask Mom or Dad to turn on the hotspot so that they can Skype. Mom or Dad can naturally follow up with “Why, who are you Skyping?” Of course Mom and Dad can be in more control of the data usage as well.

Another benefit of the cell phone alternative is that your children can still text and it won’t cost Mom and Dad a dime, as long as Wi-Fi is available. Free Wi-Fi now is pretty much everywhere such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores; some cities even have free Wi-Fi. Akron, Ohio is an example of one city that offers free Wi-Fi.

With some parental supervision and monitoring, cell phones for kids can be a terrific idea. Gone are the days of yelling through the neighborhood for a child to come home for lunch. Now it’s as simple as making a phone call or text, assuming that the child has their cell phone on or has it near them. It’s not a thought that anyone likes to think about, but violence in schools makes a cell phone a safety issue as well. If the school is in a lock down situation, your child will be able to call or text you to let you know that they are O.K. and what is going on. Parental monitoring is essential however, especially in a situation where the child is taking the phone to school. Make sure the child knows the acceptable uses of the phone and the consequences of improper use. Also, make sure that the child knows to keep the phone’s ringer either off completely or at a very low volume in appropriate places and at appropriate times. As with anything, it is up to you as the parent to impart the appropriate knowledge regarding cell phone usage.

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