Teens and Cell Phones: What should I give my kid?

smart phoneHaving a cell phone is almost akin to a rite of passage for today’s teens. With the dying out of the landline in most American homes, many families are adopting one-cellphone-per-person philosophies.

Giving your teen a cell can have its pros – the ability to check in with them at any time being one of the tops, of course. But what kind of cell phone do you give your teen? Do you give them a smart phone? What about text plans? Should you purchase a data plan for them? All valid questions for today’s parents.

If you are leaning towards giving your teen a phone, here are some issues to consider.

Cell phone Cameras – Have the talk.
Most cell phones include cameras, which can mean a lot of fun pictures to share between family members and friends. Unfortunately, not all pictures are sweet and innocent. In the last several years the issue of teen sexting has been a prevalent topic of concern amongst law enforcement, schools, parents and teen organizations.

If you decide to give your teen a phone, be sure to talk with them about what pictures are acceptable and what pictures are not. Educate them about the long-term consequences that could come from taking or sharing nude pictures, such as bullying and criminal charges. You should also set clear rules and consequences for violating those rules BEFORE giving them the phone. Let them know you will check their phone from time to time. Can they delete the pictures before you see them? Absolutely. But at least knowing that you are watching, and the potential consequences of taking inappropriate pictures, can be a deterrent that they will thank you for later.

Texting Plans – Set Limits
Teens text. A lot. They prefer texting to talking, even if they are sitting right next to their BFF.

If you are planning on giving your teen a phone with a texting plan, plan on talking about where, when and how much is allowed –regardless of what the plan includes. Whether or not you decide on an unlimited or pay-per-text plan is up to you. But be forewarned: If you aren’t tracking the number of texts they are sending before the bill cycle ends, don’t be surprised when you get a hefty bill at the end of the month.

Case in point: My brother recently fell victim to a $400 overage charge when my 15-year-old nephew sent over 2,000 texts in one month. (Clearly, they didn’t have an unlimited plan.)Not only did it affect his wallet – I foresee many nights of babysitting younger siblings in his future— but his grades suffered in the process.

Data Plans
What’s the fun of having a smartphone if you can’t download apps, logon to Facebook or surf the web? All questions you’ve likely heard if your teen is begging for the latest and greatest phone.

Again, deciding whether or not to purchase a data plan all comes down to personal choice and budget. But know that even if you decide not to sign up for a data plan, that doesn’t mean they can’t logon to the internet. With any smartphone, iPod, iPad, laptop or tablet, teens can logon to the World Wide Web when they have access to free Wi-Fi, which is readily available at many libraries, restaurants and businesses.

If you have given your teen a smartphone or iPod, at the very least I would recommend installing a web filter, such as K9. You can decide what websites or categories you want to block and can even check browsing history. My personal opinion is it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t assume your children will behave or be honest with you. At least 70% of teens hide their online browsing activity from their parents.

Manythings to consider as a parent in a digital world. Make sure whatever decision you make, you are fully informed before you do so.

What do you think about teens and cell phones? Share your thoughts in the comments!


About Tammy Champo

Youth Services became my second home six years ago as I ventured into the social services world. As the Public Relations and Communications Coordinator, I manage the online and offline communications materials, organize special events and coordinate volunteers and donations. In my "free" time, I enjoy singing/songwriting, snowboarding and swimming.
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2 Responses to Teens and Cell Phones: What should I give my kid?

  1. Pingback: Child “Ear”-ing in the Keitai Age « danielBpatton.com

    • michaelkjohnson says:

      I think it depends upon your situation. I prefer a prepaid phone and that you have the understanding it sleeps in your room after 8:00 every night. Another option would be a good quality smartphone. With one of these you can get the company to help you install GPS location for your child, call blocking from undesirables, and control the filters on the internet.

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