Ask GWA: To Give Or To Not Give Kids Mobiles

Questions Image Credit: AllThingsDMy daughter just turned 13 years old and she really wants an iPhone for Christmas.  I have been on the fence about giving her one, but the main reason I would want her to have one is so her father and I can stay in contact with her when she is away from home.  But I also want to set boundaries for how she uses it.  Do you have any recommendations on how to set the boundaries?

-Muriel Davis, Dover, Delaware

Thanks for the question.  This is an issue many parents have to deal with more often as technology becomes more integrated part of our lives.  As far as boundaries are concerned, we asked a couple of GWA staff members who have children in the same age group using mobiles what they would suggest:

You should first assess your child’s maturity level, as well as their needs and behaviors before making the mobile purchase.  Is the child mature enough to not lose the phone or break it so often that it needs to be replaced.  You have to remind your child that if they do get a mobile, they will be responsible for it if it breaks, goes missing or lost.  

You also want to make it clear why they are being given a mobile.  While most kids will want to use the mobile for playing games or texting, you want to make it clear what is appropriate and inappropriate use of the mobile and the consequences of bad use.  If the main reason for giving your child a mobile is to stay in communications with you and her father, make that clear.  It might be a good idea to not only teach them about digital citizenship, but you also might want to create a contract with your child so there is something in writing about mobile use.  

Then you want to also assess your own technology habits.  Are you leading by example?  If you don’t want your child to use their mobile at the dinner table, you shouldn’t either.  Children learn how to best use technology from their parents.

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