Dear Dr. Buckingham,
My husband and I have different views about age appropriateness when it comes to the use of cell phones by our children.When is it appropriate to give a child access to your cell phone? What if one parent does not think the child will read his or her text messages? What if it makes his or her spouse uncomfortable? Should an 11 or 12 year old have access and the code to a parent’s cell phone to play games on it?
Dear Protective Mom,
The debate about when a child should use a cell phone has heated up recently. Many experts, like me, would probably agree that a child’s age is not as important as his maturity level or level of responsibility.
Giving a child access to a cell phone (and your cell phone in particular) should be done with a few things in mind.
First, you and your husband must be mindful of your child’s maturity level regarding the use of technology, especially a cell phone. Maturity is a subjective term, but often means that one has the ability to engage in discernment and decision making with good logic and judgment. Given this, I do not personally believe that an 11 or 12 year old is mature to handle the responsibility that comes with a cell phone.
In today’s world, technology opens the gateway to information that young children cannot process and comprehend. If you are concerned about your child reading your text messages, you probably should not send or receive inappropriate text messages.
You might be thinking, “I am Grown and Can Do As I Please with my phone.” While this is true, your child will also pick up on and model your communication patterns, wether it be through e-communication or in person.
I realize that cell phones have safety features that prevent linkage of certain information, but these features are just as good as the users. Remember that maturity and responsibility are learned.
Secondly, you and your husband must be mindful of developmental stages. As part of the child developmental phase, curiosity typically overrules maturity and logic. He or she will play games and probably search for other things as well. This will occur because impulse control does not fully develop until the mid-20s. We are curious beings and display our curiosity the most during childhood.
In my professional opinion, the best solution is to wait until you all expose your child to the cell phone lifestyle. Your child can play games on devices like computers and tablets. These devices can be monitored more closely than your cell phone.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to [email protected]
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.
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