Raising Children in the Cell Phone Age: Responsibility or Restriction?

Raising Children in the Cell Phone Age: Responsibility or Restriction?

If you are like me, you remember the days of car phones and dial-up internet. Then came the cell phone, you know the ones – they slid to the side or flipped up (what amazing technology!). Then came this new-fangled thing called “texting.” You may have had to hit the number key 3 times to get to the correct letter, but you were communicating! Oh, and then the guilt…10 cents per text can add up pretty fast! (Sorry, Dad).  If I don’t stop soon, I risk sounding like a grandma… just one more, kids… once upon a time, there was no such thing as unlimited texting, or minutes, or data! Data wasn’t even a thing when I was in high school!

Welcome to 2020; cell phones are touch screen, come with a qwerty keyboard, are more expensive, twice as breakable, and EVERYWHERE. Despite how fast the digital world has changed, and changed our daily living, few of us have been able to find a happy medium between addiction, and going off the grid; if we, as fully functioning adults have a hard time with this balance, what does this mean for our children?  No screen time? Limited screen time? Give into the tantrum? Trust your gut?

Which leads many to ask – what is the right age for a cell phone or smartphone?

If you google this question, you will receive approximately 164,000,000 results. Not helpful. Okay, so you ask your friends when they gave their children their first phones; ask 5 friends and you get 5 different answers. So, is there a right answer?

Rather than give you a definitive answer, that someone else will disagree with, why don’t we break the question down and take a quiz!

Cue fun little trivia music….

Question #1: Does my child need a cell phone? 


a. No

Cool. You may now exit the quiz.

b. Yes

Proceed to question #2

Question #2: Why does my child need a cell phone?


a. Safety

Understandable. Who will they call?
Proceed to question #3

b. Social

Understandable. What access should they have?
Proceed to question #4

Question #3: Who does my child need to call/have access to?


a. Just Mom/Dad/emergency services

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You may now exit the quiz.

b. Everyone

Proceed to question #4

Question #4: Phone is needed for academic, job, and social purposes; which phone?                


a. Old school phone

-Pay-as-you-go phones
-Brick/candy bar phones without internet

You may now exit the quiz.

b. Smartphone

Learn to set appropriate boundaries

Proceed to question #5

Question #5: How to Set Appropriate Boundaries with Smart Phones

(There are several free and easy ways to set limits on phones)

a. Want to restrict access for set times, such as homework time, or driving?

For ios13.3

Go to settings -> Do Not Disturb-> Scheduled

b. Want to restrict access to apps (for scheduled times), and require permission for app download?

For ios13.3

Go to settings -> Screen Time -> App limits

c. Want to restrict access to specific apps during certain times of the day?

For ios13.3

Go to settings -> Screen Time -> Downtime

           d. Want to restrict websites and inappropriate content?

For ios13.3

Go to settings -> Screen Time -> Content and Privacy Restrictions

Rather use an app? Check out these free, and low-cost ways to protect your kids:

a. Free

a. Parental Control App
b. Screen Time
c. OurPact
d. FamiSafe

b. Low cost

a. Net Nanny
b. Kaspersky Safe Kids
c. Norton Family Parental Control

There is no “right age” for a cell phone; it comes down to maturity, need, use, content, and appropriate access/limit setting. Whatever cell phone you decide is right, and whatever age you decide is best for your family, know that you can still protect and guide your children, as they learn to set appropriate boundaries in their own life. Set your child up for success, whatever that may be.  And don’t forget, talking to your children about safe online behavior, is never a waste of time.

For more helpful tips on helping your children navigate appropriate content online, check out https://northshorefamilyservices.com/help-i-caught-my-teen-sexting-now-what/


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