With school back in session across the country and the flurry of purchases that often entails, many parents may be in the market for a cell phone for their teenager. However, the age that children are getting their first cell phones is trending earlier in recent years, with many pre-teens entering the cell phone market even before high school. Helping parents navigate the complex world of a tween’s first cell phone is the goal of a new consumer guide released today by the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer organization.
The guide is available online at www.nclnet.org/technology . It provides a range of tips to help parents choose between contract-based and prepaid services, manage data and texting costs, and set “rules of the road” for safe and smart tween phone use.
“Figuring out how to manage a child’s use of one of these high-tech gadgets can often require the skills of a seasoned diplomat, the steely nerve of a tightrope walker and the tech savvy of a Silicon Valley computer geek,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “Giving parents clear advice on how to handle a tween’s first phone is why we put this guide together.”
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 5 percent of 16-year-olds say that they received their first cell phone at age 11 or before. Conversely, 57 percent of 12-year-olds report getting their first phone that young. According to a 2007 study by C&R Research, 46 percent of children ages 9-11 and 65 percent of 12-14 year olds own a cell phone.
“Kids used to get their first phone as they were making the transition from middle school to high school,” said Greenberg. “But the market for first-time cell phones is trending younger, and we want to help parents understand and manage the unique challenges of providing their younger children with a cell phone strategy that makes sense for their family.”
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