Kids and Mobile Phones

What age is appropriate for a kid to have a mobile phone? That's something for you and your family to decide. Consider your child’s age, personality, and maturity, and your family's circumstances. Is your child responsible enough to follow rules set by you and the school?

When you decide your children are ready for a mobile phone, teach them to think about safety and responsibility.

Phones, Features, and Options

Decide on options and features for your kid's phone.

Your mobile phone company and the phone itself should give you some choices for privacy settings and child safety controls. Most carriers allow parents to turn off features, like web access, texting, or downloading. Some cell phones are made especially for children. They're designed to be easy to use, and have features like limited internet access, minute management, number privacy, and emergency buttons.

Be smart about smart phones.

Many phones offer web access and mobile apps. If your children are going to use a phone and you're concerned about what they might find online, you can choose a phone with limited internet access, or you can turn on web filtering.

Get familiar with social mapping.

Many mobile phones now have GPS technology installed: kids with these phones can pinpoint where their friends are — and be pinpointed by their friends. Advise your kids to use these features only with friends they know in person and trust, and not to broadcast their location to the world, 24-7. In addition, some carriers offer GPS services that let parents map their kid's location.

Develop Cell Phone Rules

Explain what you expect.

Talk to your kids about when and where it's appropriate to use their cell phones. You also may want to establish rules for responsible use. Do you allow calls or texting at the dinner table? Do you have rules about cell phone use at night? Should they give you their cell phones while they're doing homework, or when they're supposed to be sleeping?

Don't stand for mobile bullying.

Kids can use mobile phones to bully or harass others. Talk to your kids about treating others the same way they want to be treated. The manners and ethics you've taught them apply on phones, too.

Set an example.

It's illegal to drive while texting or surfing or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in many states, but it's dangerous everywhere. Set an example for your kids. Talk to them about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.

Mobile Sharing and Networking

Networking and sharing on-the-go can present unique opportunities and challenges. These tools can foster creativity and fun, but they could cause problems related to personal reputation and safety.

Use care when sharing photos and videos.

Most mobile phones now have camera and video capability, making it easy for teens to capture and share every moment. Encourage your teens to think about their privacy and that of others before they share photos and videos via cell phone. Get the okay of the photographer or the person in the shot before posting videos or photos. It could be embarrassing and even unsafe. It's easier to be smart upfront about what media they share at the outset than to do damage control later.

Use good judgment with mobile social networking.

Many social networking sites have a feature that allows users to check their profiles and post comments from their phones, allowing access from anywhere. Filters you've installed on your home computer won't limit what kids can do on a phone. If your teens are using a mobile phone, talk to them about using good sense when they're social networking from it.