CAUTION: If your child is begging you for a cellphone and you aren’t quite ready to give in, you might not want your child to read the following post! stock-illustration-75069785-happy-emoticon-cartoon-with-eye-blinking-on-isolated-background

By Mindprint Staff

Parents of elementary-aged children always ask about the “right age” for a cellphone. And all parents wonder about what rules to set. Given the enormous amount of negative publicity around adolescent cellphone use, much of it rightfully earned, the hesitancy around giving a child a cellphone is understandable. A quick scan through our collection of articles on media privacy & usage should provide you with all the cautionary advice you need.

However, much less discussed are the potential benefits of having a cellphone. And these benefits can extend well beyond knowing when your child is ready to be picked up. For students with anxiety, social challenges or learning differences, cellphones can be particularly powerful tools to support them during these crucial developmental years. Here’s why:

Reassurance: If you have a child who can be anxious in situations without a parent nearby, a cellphone can be just the reassurance he needs. Knowing a parent is only a discreet text message away if things get tough can give a child the courage to tackle that new situation on his own. And we know that once a child overcomes a fear once, it only gets easier the next time.

Avoiding Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is a very real problem in the teen years. It gets kids who know right from wrong to sometimes do the wrong thing. While all students need responsive guidance on how to make good decisions, a discreet “come get me” text message can be a lifesaver in a tough situation where a student has not yet effectively mastered “just say no”. Nobody is going to question your ducking out if your parent is honking outside.

Better Communication: The reality is that many kids are more comfortable texting than speaking. Parents can use this as an opportunity. A simple “hi and how was your day” lets you into her day and might lead you to more information than you would ever receive at the dinner table. And once you’ve opened up communication, dinners might become more about continuing the conversation.

Accessible Learning Supports: Technology can be a true life-changer for kids with learning and attention weaknesses. The option to record notes in class (with permission of course), keep an electronic to-do list, and have a calendar, calculator or dictionary easily accessible are just the beginning. There are mindfulness apps to help a child with breathing when he gets stressed and online flashcards that can help with both retention and pronunciation. There is an endless variety of productivity tools available to today’s students, and again, the confidentiality of a phone means your peers don’t need to know about it. If you sign-up for a free Mindprint Toolbox, you will find plenty of options.

As with all technologies, a cellphone can be a powerful and effective support when used correctly. Similarly, there are plenty of ways to misuse the privilege. For every parent, when to give it and what rules to apply are a judgment call. We just want to be sure that you don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Cellphones can be an amazing support. So consider the upside before you immediately say no.

Have a child who “isn’t living up to potential?” Need some help in relieving homework stress? A little insight can go a long way. Read the second post in our Empowering Parents series. This mom shares the benefits of understanding her daughters’ different learning strengths and needs.

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