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Family Project: 2nd-grader cell phone

Q. At what age is it appropriate to give your child a cell phone? My daughter is in second grade and is asking for one because her friends have one. What do you think?

The panel agreed that age seven is too young for a child to have a cell phone.

Panelist Pam Wallace said that, in addition to the cost, a cell phone involves a lot of responsibility: “Is she going to be able to hold onto the phone and not leave it on the bus or drop it somewhere?”

Panelist Chad Stefanyak said he would want to know the purpose for the phone: “That’s where my conversation would begin. What purpose is it going to serve? I would ask the child if it is simply to keep up with the neighbors and the Joneses. If it is, then I can’t see justifying it.”

“In general, I’m always concerned when parents are making decisions based on what everyone else has,” panelist Mike Ramsey said.

“I’m wondering where the information came from that other second-graders have cell phones?” Ramsey continued, asking, “Is the daughter telling her parents that?”

Ramsey said it’s unlikely that many second-graders have cell phones or that they need to communicate using a cell phone.

“I did research for my own child,” panelist Amy Contakes said, “and the recommended age is 16. I don’t know how realistic that is. Between ages 11 and 17, most kids already have their own phones.”

“Early adolescences is a good time for kids to have a phone because they will be focused on developing a peer group, communicating and socializing,” Ramsey said, adding, “You probably need some technology to do that, but with supervision and monitoring.”

If the parent lets her daughter have a cell phone, Wallace said, then she needs to make it clear to the child that she is the parent and she has the right to see what the daughter is doing.

“I need to have your password and be able to see your phone and what sites you are on,” Wallace said, referring to what she would tell the daughter. Wallace said she would also say, “You’re going to give me your phone at night, and I will return it in the morning.”

Ramsey said the daughter needs to know the ramifications if she gets into trouble with the cell phone and what expectations she needs to meet, emphasizing, “Have that conversation ahead of time, before getting the phone.”

This week’s panel is: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Amy Contakes, Valley Youth House.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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