According to some nationwide statistics in the United States, most kids have a cell phone of their own by the time that they are 12. For many others, they are given cell phones even younger. These cell phones, which are simply pretty much provide parents with an almost false sense of security that makes them think they can be in constant contact with their teens at all times. And while it’s true, that cell phones make keeping track of teens a little bit easier (especially with GPS capabilities); it is obvious from older generations that they aren’t a necessary rite of passage for young people.
Funny, but many television cell phone commercials deal with one of the most trying aspects of giving teens a phone. The cell phone bill. Every month, there are millions of parents stuck with overages and charges that can literally cost hundreds if not a thousand dollars extra per month. While teens are good at talking on the phone, they certainly aren’t good at monitoring just how much they talk. While a text message on average costs around half a minute, teens can send hundreds of these messages per day. This is especially true since today’s teen is more adept at carrying on text conversations than they are carrying on face-to-face ones. And, of course, there are expensive media packages that can come with teens cell phones. Teens tend to think along the lines that having a phone that does nothing more than call people is an embarrassment and waste of time.
But, should parents be paying their teenagers cell phone bill?
After all, landlines still exist and you can talk for as many minutes as you want for virtually nothing at all. In some ways, especially with so many families struggling with finances that they would afford their children the cost of a cell phone. And, depending on your provider – unlimited packages which help by not charging overages can be outrageous.
According to a Nielson report, only one in four teens actually pays any or all of their monthly cell phone bill. Even more frightening is the fact that parents are also footing the bill for their ‘adult’ children as less than half of Americans between the ages of 20 and 24 pay their own monthly bill in whole. Looking at these statistics and comparing them with statistics from other parts of the world, it becomes obvious that the ‘cell phone’ habit is one that young adults and teen take for granted. Probably because parents are indulging them. In countries across Europe, around 90% of young adults and teens pay their own cell phone bills.
When you consider that nearly half (40%) of all contracted phones in the United States are engaged in some sort of family pricing schedule, you realize that parents today have sort of adopted the idea that providing a cell phone is a contingency of good parenting. Sadly, however – this over indulgence and paying of bills especially for something that they don’t truly need – is exactly what is wrong with youth today.
Here's the thing. Since family plans have made it affordable for teens to have phones, doesn’t it make sense to allow teens to pay for it? Hard work, and learning how to prioritize and pay bills in a timely manner is part of growing up. Plus, when teens are given the opportunity to prove themselves and gain responsibility – even by something as simple as paying for their cell phone, it empowers them for the future. In fact, making sure that kids pay their cell phone bills is the ideal way to teach them how to earn money and decide upon the things that are important in their life. And, the reality is that teens don’t really NEED these phones, especially with Email capabilities and I-phone subscriptions…so why should parents be forced to foot the bill.
Additionally, by making sure that kids pay their cell phone bills, they get an early glimpse of what it is like to be responsible and will likely have more respect for their cell phones and the privilege to use it. And they just might be less likely to feel entitled to some of the commodities in life that truly should be seen as extras, rather than givens.
In the long run, allowing children to take some responsibility and control over the things they want also helps them out. Setting up an account for your child and making them be responsible for the payments is a great way to help them build up some credit. It also can be the basis for many other things in their life that they will need to make payments for. The trick is realizing that you, as the parent – cannot just waltz in and pay the bill the first time their phone gets disconnected. If you are always there to bail them out without consequence, then you aren’t really teaching your teen anything.
Bottom line is that cell phones are a luxury. They are part of the social network that teens feel desperate to belong to. But they are not mom and dads ultimate responsibility, and they are not something that a teen HAS to have. If they have one, they should somehow, in some way – whether monetarily or otherwise, be held financially responsible. Not doing so, sets up teens to learn some of the necessary lessons later in life, when it may be too late. Perhaps the time has come for the United States to look to other countries when it comes to outfitting teens with cell phones. And responsibility.