I went back to school! No not really but I did attend a webinar on mobile phone safety for our kids on October 23rd! It was sponsored by The Motherhood and AT&T and the statistics really were alarming!
Some statistics from the webinar were:
AT&T conducted a study of 1,000 parents and 500 kids – ages 8-17 – on a variety of topics that relate to mobile phones, devices and other issues.
Many of you have probably either asked or been asked…what the right age to give a child a mobile phone? While we can’t really say what’s “right” – we can tell you that the average age is 12.1. Kids’ first phones by age group:
- Age 8-11 – average age 9.5 yrs
- Age 12-14 – average age 11.3 yrs
- Age 15-17 – average age 13.3 yrs
In addition, we found that, of kids who have mobile phones, 34% have smartphones. Percentage of smartphone adoption by age group:
- Age 12-14 – 35% have smartphones
- Age 15-17 – 37% have smartphones
What parents are concerned about in their kids’ use of mobile phones:
- 89% are worried about texting and driving
- 67% are concerned about bullying text messages
- 69% are concerned about sexually suggestive messages
- 77% are worried about their kids receiving calls from unknown numbers.
What we found interesting is how those worries related to what was actually happening, according to kids:
- Over HALF have been in a car with someone who was texting and driving
- Over 1 in 5 have received a mean text message
- Almost half have a friend who received a sexual picture or message
- 69% have received a call from an unknown number.
So for all that worrying, the reality is that kids truly are experiencing these issues. Whether they are telling their parents or not is a different story, but the study gave us the insight that parents aren’t worrying for no reason.
When we look at these behaviors of kids and their mobile phones, one very well-known behavior is missing – and that’s overage charges on minutes, texts or data. Kids are more likely to have experienced the following issues, as opposed to downloading content (such as apps or games) that lead to unexpected costs on the account:
- 53% of kids have been in a motor vehicle with someone who was texting and driving
- Over 1 in 5 have received a mean or bullying text message from another kid on their mobile phone
- Almost half (46%) have a friend who has received a message or picture that their parents would not have liked because it was too sexual
- 69% have answered a call from an unknown number
Some highlights of the Q&A with Lesley Backus and Whaewon Choi of Fleishman-Hillard, who worked with AT&T to develop the Mobile Safety School program were…
Why do kids age 8-11 actually need a phone?
Based on what we’ve heard from parents, there is no magic age. Every family is different, and this is a personal decision that’s happening within the family unit. We tend to see kids in this age range getting a phone if they’re spending a lot of time outside the home at weekend or after-school activities or sleepovers.
On the website, we have an article called “My First Phone” that looks at some tips for this topic.
Culturally, things have shifted. That first step of freedom once was getting the keys to the car at age 16. Now the phone is the new status symbol. It’s not a reason to get a phone for your child, but it is interesting that the phone has become the new ticket to freedom in a lot of ways.
My son texts a lot and I can’t get him to stop. Any suggestions?
AT&T has a product called Smart Limits for wireless. It’s $4.99 per month, and you can set a monthly limit for the number of text messages you want your child to be able to send.
Some parents will have their kids charge their cell phones in the parents’ bedroom, since often parents think kids are in bed, but they’re texting with friends.
Can we avoid giving kids a smartphone initially?
Kids are pre-disposed to smartphones because they have iPod touches that feel like smartphones, but it’s a case-by-case decision among families. Resoundingly, one thing we heard in talking to parents is that we’re dealing with new technologies, but so many of the same rules for freedoms/privileges apply. New tools, but old familiar rules.
It’s about what each child can handle in terms of their freedom.
We often talk to kids one-on-one about things they’re navigating with their peers. It really depends on how mature you are. Kids recognize having a smartphone is an extra level of responsibility, and they’re interested in talking to their parents about it and having that dialogue.
Can you talk about Family Map?
Family Map is an app you can download for your family on your individual phones. You sign up yourself and your family members, and it allows you to log in and see where a particular phone is. If your child is always with their phone and you want to make sure they arrive at a particular destination safely, you can log in and see that phone on a map. You can also set alerts to make sure you check in at specific times.
It allows you to check on your kids without bothering them – avoiding the issue of texting while driving, etc.
There were some great ideas mentioned I really liked…
- Charging phone in bedroom
- Definite rules regarding use
- AT&T family map
Seeing these statistics really alarmed me a bit. I have 3 children and 2 of the 3 have cell phones. Our oldest is 18 and already out of the house but our 13 year old does have a phone. We do check it and she has very specific rules for it. Our 8 year old does not have one and we do not see a need at this point. If he should go somewhere he would need it he takes his sisters. That was the agreement when we bought the phone. It was who needs it not that it belongs to anyone child. This works for us.
I will absolutely be looking into the AT&T family map though. I really was intrigued with that.
I also want to inform you that I am working with AT&T to discuss these issues and have been compensated for my time and expertise.
What are your thoughts? DO kids NEED phones today or is this a new culture adaptation?
Until next time…