Technology is everywhere, so it’s no surprise that some grade schoolers have their own cell phones. These days it's only when a child has a nicer one than an adult that it seems a bit extreme! But many parents feel that children this young should not have have cell phones at all.
Four Views on When to Get Your Child a Phone
So what’s the right age for your child to have her own phone, and how do you talk to her about responsible cell phone use? Here, Circle of Moms members and bloggers share four perspectives on when and why a child should get a phone, followed by rules that might accompany this privilege to make it workable for everyone.
1. Your Child Is In Middle School
“That’s when they start wanting to do things with friends, have extra curricular activities they may be involved with, and they start wanting to talk on the phone a lot more.” - Heather of From Crayons to Coupons
2. Your Child Can Pay For It Herself
"We are willing to put them on our plan so that it's cheaper, but we will not pay for it. My husband didn't have a cell phone until he was an adult and could pay for it himself. I don't see any reason for my child to have one if he can borrow one of ours, or if we have his friends' cell phone numbers." Summer K.
"If they want a phone to talk/text to friends, well, my opinion is that they'd have to be old enough to have a job where they could pay for the phone and any charges associated with said phone. Cell phones are great, but they are a privilege and not a right in my book." Julie M. of Natural and Free
"My kids were each allowed to buy a cell phone with their 12th birthday money. Conditions were [that] it was a prepaid phone, they had to pay for their own credit (extra jobs could be done to earn extra when needed), and they always had to keep a couple of dollars credit for an emergency call if need be. They are now 20, 18 and 16. The older two have fancy phones with contracts and the youngest one would love to, but until she is 18 and old enough to sign a contact herself, she is stuck [with] prepaid." -Mardi M.
3. You Feel Your Child is Responsible
"I'm a divorced mom, and would love to give my eight year-old one of the simple 'kid' cell phones if I felt she was responsible enough to take care of it. They only have a few programmable buttons - mom, dad, 911. I think these would be useful for kids to be able to get in touch with either parent in a split-home situation." - Shai S. of The Vagabond Studio
"It's a very personal decision whether to give a child a phone — how responsible they are, etc." - Rosemary S.
4. Your Child Truly Needs a Phone
"Our daughter is ten and plays quite a few sports and is also being invited to many sleepovers. Already we have had more than one instance where she forgot to call us and we went over half a day without hearing from her (which is very nerve wracking). After that happened, we talked about letting her use a cell phone for those times that she is at someone else's home, or is at a sporting event without us. We are giving her an old iPhone that we have and we are signing her up with the most basic plan with the understanding that this phone will only be given to her when she is not with us." - Tina from ShopaholicMommy
"Now that he's riding his bike to/from school I feel better [that] he has a cell phone to call for help if needed. His phone only costs $9.99 a month so it was way cheaper than a land line." - Bonnie W
"I would say as soon as they can start understanding what a cell phone is, you can purchase just those basic track-phones and have nothing on it but basic calling. Sit down with them and tell them that its for emergencies only, like if they missed the bus from school, etc." - Lisa D.
Cell Phone Rules for Kids
Although moms don't quite agree on the timing, all do agree that there should be rules when you do finally give your child a cell phone.
"The rules we have are no phone until chores and homework are done after school, then no phone after 8 p.m. or at mealtime. This gives her time to communicate with us, or she is glued to her phone and the constant texts from friends." -Nicole B.
"Our agreement has been if he wants to go out with friends off of our street he must have his phone on him, charged, and if I call he must answer. If he can't find it, or its not charged (which can be often) he can't go. It works well for us. He isn't much of a talker, so he really doesn't use it to chitchat with friends." - Candice D.
"The phone was for letting us know where she was, not to text her friends. She was allowed to text socially on weekends only. Our provider also allows us to see how many incoming/outgoing texts were sent, so she knew we were monitoring that." - Phae E. of NakedLabels
In addition to the rules above, moms suggest the following:
- No phones at church
- No phones in the bedroom after bedtime (Frances F. has her daughters leave their phones on the kitchen counter at night)
- Parents have the right to check a child's texts, emails and calls whenever they choose
- Phones can be taken away if the child is not doing well in school and keeping up with chores and other responsibilities
When did your child first have a cell phone?