Deciding the Right Age for a Child’s First Cell Phone
At what age should you give your child a cell phone?
Cell phones are the best way for us to stay connected to one another, but are our children of age to have one? For parents, it’s not only their age that they’re concerned about. Before you add another phone line to your account, think about what consequences may arise surrounding the phone and the well-being of your child.
- Convenience: You can find out where they’re at by calling or texting.
- Feel safer knowing where they’re at.
- An emergency phone is an asset if they need to reach you or if you need to reach them.
These are some of the reasons why a lot of parents buy their kids phones.
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According to a 2010 survey by the Keiser Family Foundation, the age limit and percentage for kids with cell phones are:
- 14-17 (85%)
- 11-14 (69%)
- 8-10 (31%)
Teens have the same security from phones as adults. They may see having a phone as a way of fitting in with their peers.
- Lack of sleep, not going to sleep when it’s bedtime. Instead, will text friends.
- Texting while they’re driving.
Is social media ready for this type of access? At times, it’s positive, but there is a risk of cyberbullying.
When are they ready?
Maturity is the ability to be responsible. Parents need to do their job by researching and talking to their kids about being safe with their phones. Look at their developmental skills. Are they responsible, are they trustworthy, and do they know how to use the phone correctly?
Monitoring your kid’s phone
You should check to see who they are calling and texting. They don’t want you to, but you should. Let them know that every so often, you will be checking and making sure they are being responsible and showing respect to others.
Rules for your child
- Buy a basic phone
- Place limits on phone minutes and text minutes
- Propose a time when the phone can be used
- Teach them to be on their best behavior. (Don’t take or send pics without a person’s permission, and don’t talk to strangers.)
I recommend giving your child a phone when you feel like they’re mature enough to have one. These are terrible times that we’re living in, and as a parent, you want and need to know where your kid is always. I know you may not want to, but put a tracker on it if you need to. Keep in mind that some kids don’t tell their parents where they’re going, what they’re doing, or who they’re hanging around. For their safety, I say yes to cell phones, at least by age 11.
- Rideout, V., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. Kaiser Family Foundation.