IS IT TIME TO GIVE YOUR CHILD A CELLPHONE?
Many parents ask me what’s the best age to give their child a phone. The first thing I remind them is they are not giving their child a just phone, they are giving them a powerful tool with access to information the child might not be ready for.
But I also know it’s a new world and that cellphones are a big part of that new world. If you are considering giving your child a cellphone, I suggest you consider a few points:
- Are you doing this so your child will be safer or more popular?
- Is your child responsible enough to take care of the phone?
- Is your child disciplined enough to use the phone responsibly? In other words, can they be counted on not to use it in class or in other situations where it might be rude or disruptive?
- Can you afford the purchase cost and the added fees on your phone bill? Are you ready to monitor their data use and app purchases?
- Speaking of monitoring, how will you keep track of the information they consume or the people they communicate with? This is an all too frightening reality. They will see things they shouldn’t see. They will hear things they shouldn’t hear. They will talk to people they shouldn’t talk to.
- Are you considering this because you are tired of handing over your own phone?
Most experts recommend waiting until children are in high school before providing them with a cellphone, but you will have to make the decision based on your family’s needs.
If you decide it’s time to take the plunge, talk with experts at your cellphone provider about phone options that are best suited to your child’s age. There are phones with limited functions that can help protect your child from the more unsavory aspects of cellphone usage.
Make sure your child understands your rules for cellphone usage beforehand. Set clear consequences (such as losing access to the phone for a set period of time) if family rules are broken.
Consider taking the phone away at night or during homework time. Studies show that if a student’s phone is simply in sight, it can have a negative impact on concentration. The phone reminds the child that there’s a great, big, social world out!
Finally, make sure your child understands the “etiquette” of cellphone use. Here are a few tips:
- Put the phone away when in a professional or learning environment. If you’re at work or at school, keep the phone out of sight. Even better, turn it off.
- Turn off the speaker when in public. No one wants to hear your conversation with Hannah about your bad date with John
- If you need to answer a phone call, move away from the group to a more private area.
- Watch your language when in public. Younger “ears” might be in earshot. Even older “ears” don’t to hear a string of curse words coming out of your mouth as you complain about your boss.
- Put the phone away when eating or spending time with family or friends. Cherish the time you have with them and make the most of it.
- Speak clearly into the phone so that the other person can hear and understand you.
- Never text and drive. That puts you and everyone else on the road in danger, so just don’t do it.
- Don’t use your phone is dark areas such as movie theaters or restaurants. It’s distracting and rude. If you must use your phone, turn down the volume and the brightness.
- Discussing personal affairs in public should be avoided. Just as you do not want to hear about other people’s personal issues, they do not want to hear yours!
- Silence your phone when in a job interview. Answering the phone will be a surefire way to make sure you do not get the job
- Don’t just hang up when the call is over. Say good-bye.
One final pearl of wisdom to tell your child: If you don’t want someone doing it to you, don’t do it to someone else. (Look at that, the Golden Rule of childhood still applies, even in the grown-up world of cellphone usage.)
If you are looking for more resources, check out our articles “Social Media is the Real Fake News! Don’t Let it Fool Your Child” or “Want to Limit Your Kids’ Screen Time? Maybe You Should Start with Your Own.”
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