when should you give a teenager their first phone
Why does a teen need a cell phone?
One of the main reasons parents should give their kids a cell phone is so they can know where they are at any time — if not their actual location, at least to know that they’re okay. If he can answer his phone, he’s fine. For the most part, this will be a consideration of your teen’s readiness and maturity level. If your child is old enough (and this varies by family) to go places with his friends unchaperoned, then he should probably have a cell phone of his own.
What goes along with that is your child’s responsibility to be available to answer the phone at all times. You will need to make that rule very clear and inarguable. If he is unwilling to be “on call” at all times, then he shouldn’t have a cell phone.
It could be argued that there is an issue of trust at stake. Your kid will likely say, “Don’t you trust me? I’m not going to be doing anything I shouldn’t, and it’s embarrassing to have to talk to my parents when I’m with my friends.” However, that argument works both ways. If he is trustworthy and understands your concerns, he won’t mind answering the phone every time.
A good compromise is to make it a rule to respond by text, if not by voice. That way, his friends needn’t listen in on a potentially ridicule-causing phone call. If you are of a particularly paranoid bent, create a password for the two of you to use that will confirm your child’s identity. You’ll know that it’s really him answering, and not a friend on lookout duty while he’s busy getting into shenanigans.
Smartphone or standard?
Keep in mind that just because you may own an iPhone, Windows Phone, or Android device, that doesn’t mean that your child has to have one as well. If the main reason he wants a phone is for communication, then any cell phone will do.
However, these days, the selection of educational apps can make owning a smartphone a very attractive option. Some phone families also feature useful interoperability, like the FaceTime feature for iPhones.
Also, remember that GPS tracking is a two-way street. You may want to keep it enabled to make it easier to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts. Keeping GPS enabled also includes the potential for him to give away his location with the use of apps that include that information as part of a status message or as metadata in photos. If this is a concern, make sure you know how to turn location services off on your child’s phone.
Making the call
Giving your kid a first cell phone can be fun for the both of you and a good way to teach your child some new responsibility. Sit down and have a conversation about what you both want from the experience, then go bond together over shopping for that new phone.