According to a recent survey done by Verizon, the average age that a child receives his first cell phone is 11 ½. Verizon also surveyed 519 parents and asked them if they established rules for cell phone use or if they let their kids have free reign with their phones. A staggering 95% of the parents had not set up any rules with their children. Before buying a cell phone for your child, you might want to consider the following:
- Cyber bullying can lead to suicide. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 4,400 children a year commit suicide and for every child who dies there are 100 suicide attempts. Cyber bullying has been linked to suicide, whether the child is the bully or the one being bullied.
- Sexting happens more than you think. The circulating of nude and explicit photos is a much more regular occurrence then most parents realize. According to Cosmo Girl, 22% of teenage girls and 20% of teenage boys have sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves over the Internet or from their cell phone. Once that photo is out there it can be posted to a social website or sent to every cell phone in the school. Sexting can lead to a reputation being ruined forever.
- Sexting can lead to sex. A 2009 study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy found that 29% of teens think that if photos of a sexual nature are shared that dating or sex is expected; this perceived expectation can lead to earlier sexual activity.
- Inappropriate use can lead to jail time. Authorities are starting to crack down on sexting and the sending of nude pictures of teenagers. Sharing nude photos is considered child pornography, even if a child of the same age is sending it. A recent arrest was made of an underage male that sent a nude picture of himself to his 15 year old girlfriend. He also received one back from her. He was found with several nude photos of the underage girl on his phone and was arrested, despite the fact that she was his girlfriend.
- Opportunities for earlier exposure to nude images. According to a study reported by CNN.com, 1 in 6 kids ages 12 to 17 have received sexually explicit texts and photos on their cell phone. If you don’t want your young child exposed to things like this, you should probably hold off on getting him a cell phone or strictly monitor his use.
- Phone plans can be expensive. Overages on cell phones for data, be it texting or Internet use, can add up quickly. The younger the child is, the less likely they are to understand and keep track of how much they are texting or using the Internet. Before getting your child a cell phone, you’ll want to be sure he clearly understands how the charges work.
- Phones can result in sleep deprivation and poor grades: When parents check their teen’s cell phone usage, they often find that their teen is taking calls at all hours of the day and night. Teens like to be in touch with their friends 24/7 and this behavior can leave your child sleep deprived, which can impact their grades in a negative way. A study done by the National Sleep Foundation found that 1 in 5 teens age 13 to 18 are awakened by a call or text message a few times a week.
- Phone use can hamper family interaction: Cell phones can become your child’s world. The more children text and talk with their friends, the less face-to-face time they spend with their family. Digital media expert Patricia Greenfield explained in an interview with the New York Times that if you hold off getting your child a cell phone you will maintain better communications between you and your child.
- Phones are a pain to replace. Cell phones are expensive and younger children tend to be less responsible than older teenagers. The loss of a cell phone is a hassle because any personal information that was on the phone might now be in someone else’s hands. If a phone is lost, you often will need to get a new phone number and shut down the phone service.
- There is a possible link to brain cancer. Scientists have been arguing about this since the 1990’s when a businessman brought a lawsuit against his cell phone company because his wife died of brain cancer. The tumor was said to be on the side of her head close to where she talked on her phone for several hours a day. Estimations of 400,000-500,000 new cases of brain cancer related to cell phone use in 2010 were made. The jury is still out on this one, but why put your child at risk?
Currently 20 percent of children ages 6 to 11 have a cell phone. This number jumps to 75 percent for kids aged 11 to 17, according to a 2010 Pew Internet and Life Project survey. At some point most kids will have cell phones. Before purchasing one for your child, be sure to consider the pros and cons of cell phone use for children.
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