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Parents Talk: Cell Phones For Kids

Local parents Christie Arias, Rai Warbasse, Stacy Blom and Carina Ibarra of Patch's Parents Council weigh in with their opinions.

From the malls to the classrooms, you will see kids texting friends and parents on their cell phones.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 23 percent of parents said their kids got their first cell phones when they were 13 years old.

Several schools are modifying their technology policies to accommodate students’ cell phones on campus. The Roseville Press Tribune reported on how teachers are trying to take advantage of mobile technology without letting it become a distraction in classrooms.

We checked in with our local Patch Parents Council about this topic. Here's what they had to say about when parents should give their kids a cell phone.

Patch: At what age do you think it's appropriate for your child to have a cell phone?

Christie Arias: My kids at 3 and 5 enjoy playing with our cell phones, but at this age they are just in it for the games and apps. I think when kids are old enough to do activities on their own without a parent present, that they would be responsible enough for a cell phone as well. I think it's more a convenient tool for parent and child to interact while they are away from home.

Rai Warbasse: Call me old fashioned, but as someone who is in the IT industry dealing with the bleeding edge of technology, I don’t feel it is appropriate to distribute cell phone or on demand network services to children that are not old enough to understand financial responsibility, self-discipline and network safety. I say that now while my children are under 6 and only want to play Angry Birds (CURSE YOU ANGRY BIRDS!) and I am sure I will cave in when my pre-teens come crying to me wanting a phone because they are the only ones that do not have one. With cyber bullying on the rise and internet predators located everywhere, it is too easy to open yourself up to being a pawn in someone’s twisted online games, and this goes for adults too.

Stacy Blom: I think it totally depends on your situation and the needs of your family. My girls did not actually have cell phones of their own until they became Freshmen in high school. Reason being, plain and simple, they just didn't need them! I drove them to school, picked them up and they weren't allowed to just wander around. So why would they need a phone? I always felt that a cell phone was for emergency purposes only and not a tool for entertainment purposes. If they needed me from school, they could go to the office and call me. You know, the old-fashion way!

Carina Ibarra: Since I plan on homeschooling my child, I do not foresee him needing a cell phone any time soon. If he did end up going to school, I would get him a Firefly to contact us in case of emergency. He wouldn’t get a fully-functional phone until high school.

Patch: What kind of plan does your child have? If he/she doesn't have one yet, what kind of plan are you planning on getting him/her, if any?

Christie: All the kids these days text, so that would certainly have to be included. Since I don't even have a smart phone, it is unlikely my child would have or need one before me. However, I'm not planning on getting my kids cell phones anytime soon and technology changes so quickly, you never know what they will come up with next. I would certainly use the tracking on the phone, so I could see where my kids are at any time.

Rai: If you as a parent want to use the cell phone as a way of knowing where your child is and have on demand communication, then you need to spend the extra $5 to $15 on top of your plan to put appropriate safe guards in place. Today, Verizon and AT&T have the most advanced limiting features with Verizon leading the game at the moment. You can restrict the amount of calls and texts, the time on the calls, set up perimeter alerts for location, block numbers (or only allow certain numbers) and many other features. AT&T does most of the same and you can compare the details between AT&T and Verizon on their websites. When my children are disciplined enough or I cave, whichever comes first, I plan to tap into parental monitoring and will use cell phone usage, computer games and network access as an allowance and will monitor it closely while teaching my children responsibility and etiquette that can carry into the work place – YES I’M TALKING TO YOU AUNTIE ALL CAPPS WITH YOUR ROTFL AND OMG AND >:P

Stacy: We have a "family" plan now and share 1,400 minutes a month with unlimited texting. Nowadays, the kids don't really talk with each other on the phone, they do way more texting. So it's important to have unlimited access. I actually communicate more with my family when they're away through texting as well.

Carina: I would add him to our family plan and carefully monitor his incoming and outgoing calls.  

Patch: How do/would you manage your child's use of the cell phone?

Christie: Cell phones would not be allowed to be taken to bed at night. I always hear about kids staying up half the night talking or texting. Also, a cell phone is a privilege, like any other thing, can be taken away with misuse or as a punishment for other things.

Rai: In my mind, there is no age to target when to give children a cell phone as I know some adults that should have nothing hi-tech in their hands and I know some families with very responsible children and understand private vs public information. Regardless of when you decide to give your child a phone, keep the control in your hands and hand out freedom in little chunks. If your children do have cell phones and an internet presence, teach them what too much information is and keep tabs on their communications; though I don’t recommend correcting them with public posts that will cause any form of public humiliation with their peers – keep that stuff for their dates they bring home later.

Stacy: It's never really been an issue with us having to manage their use! We have rules that there is no texting or cell phone use in restaurants, at the dinner table, during family time, etc. And homework comes first. It's still mainly used for emergency purposes and texting! No one really talks to each other anymore via cell phone! It's a whole new era!

Carina: The Firefly will only have mine, my husbands, my sisters and his grandparents' numbers. Once he is in high school, he can use his cell phone as he sees fit with the knowledge that he is responsible for contributing to the bill for any add-ons. For example, he will have a share in the family minutes but if he goes over the minutes or wants unlimited texting or a data plan, that is coming out of his pocket.

Analisa Harangozo (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I didn't get a phone until freshmen year at CVHS, but I remember tons of kids having them when I was at Canyon Middle School.
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