Cell Phones For Kids: Make It A Teaching Opportunity

Written by on June 1, 2012 in Family - 1 Comment | Print this page

Cell Phones For Kids:  Make It A Teaching Opportunity

Image credit: Peter Griffin @ http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/browse-author.php?a=296

Don’t be surprised when your six-year old starts asking for a cell phone. You might be able to distract him for a while, but research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, back in 2010, showed that 31% of 8-10 year olds, 69% of 11-14 year olds, and 85% of 15-18 year olds owned their own cell phone. And it’s a safe bet that those numbers have increased over the last two years.

So it’s pretty much a given that your child is going to ask you for a cell phone. Accept it. And now that you’ve accepted it, start putting together a battle plan. This is a perfect opportunity for you to teach your child about finances and the one concept most kids can’t seem to grasp – money does not grow on trees.

Don’t buy into their arguments. If using the fact that all their friends have a cell phone doesn’t sway you then they’re going to start pulling out trump cards. Don’t buy into their arguments. Unless they are willing to completely finance this entire venture – including the monthly service fee – then the only issue you need to be concerned about is the issue of safety.

In some areas it’s impossible to find a working pay phone. If having a cell phone will increase your child’s mobility and provide a measure of safety when he’s out on his own, then it’s definitely worth considering. But if your kid isn’t old enough or responsible enough for you to let him out of your sight anyway, then there’s no reason he needs a phone yet.

If you’re considering getting a cell phone for your child, use is as a teaching opportunity.

Have him do the research. Tell your child you’re open to the possibility but he needs to do the legwork. Have him compare phone prices and plans and make up a chart. He’ll learn there’s a lot more to owning a cell phone than just paying for the phone.

Help him set up a budget. Add together the cost of the phone, the cost of the monthly fee, and additional costs like text messaging or email or whatever special feature kids need this year. Then break it down into a weekly dollar amount, or even a daily dollar amount, so he sees how much that phone is really going to cost, every single day.

Make him responsible for a portion of the expense. Now that he sees how much that phone’s going to cost, ask him how he plans to pay for it. At this point, I wouldn’t even suggest that you’re going to help. I’d let the shock sink in, first.

If he’s still young, ask him how much of his allowance he’s willing to put toward the phone. Tell him how much you’re willing to contribute and ask what features he’s willing to give up. If he’s old enough, ask him if he’s going to get a job to help pay for it.

Stay in control. If you’re paying for even a small portion of the phone every month, then you need to monitor usage. You should, anyway, but your child needs to learn what a budget is and this is the perfect teaching opportunity.

When he goes over the budget because he’s sending too many text messages it’s his responsibility to make up the difference, not yours. Warn him once and if it happens again, take the phone away until he’s responsible enough to handle it.

This is a guest post. Donna Anderson is a freelance writer who enjoys small-town living in rural Kentucky. She’s an active member of several online communities and enjoys taking part in discussions that focus on how real people can live real lives in this fast-paced world we all live in.


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