What is the Right Age for My Kid to Get a Cell Phone?
Q: We don’t have a home phone. So the only way for my 8 year-old’s friends to contact her is through my cell phone. Lately she has been getting a barrage of calls and texts on my phone! Part of me feels like she’s too young, but I also fee like she needs a way to be connected to her friends. What is a good age for her to get her own phone?
A: Uncool Mom (you aren’t uncool BTW. You are concerned about your daughter’s development and safety, that makes you cool, just maybe not to your kids! LOL!)
I know the statistics shocked me, but the average age for a cell phone is 6, yes that’s S-I-X years old. I’m not saying that makes it a good age. Just sharing what those “cool” moms are doing. (that’s sarcasm!)
Rather than it being about an age number, it’s really more about maturity, as well as your readiness to help her navigate the world of technology.
You will want to ask yourself some questions:
- Does my daughter often lose or break things?
- Why do I feel she needs a phone of her own?
- Am I you prepared to teach her about proper usage and etiquette?
- Am I prepared to put on parental controls and monitor the phone for texts, apps, etc? (but also tell my child I am doing so?)
- Am I prepared to set rules and limits around phone usage and enforce them, such as:
- no usage during dinner/homework hours
- no phone in the room at bedtime/overnight
- usage limits
- can she be trusted not to text in class or other inappropriate times?
Once you answer all of these questions, you will better be equipped to answer this question for yourself. For ways to implement rules and set boundaries around cell phone usage, see our class on Kids and Media: Ages Newborn to 10
Warning: Mind the Gap!
I worked with many tweens and teens who managed to get themselves into trouble, some just a little and some A LOT, with cell phones (and other technology) So I feel it is very important to give parents plenty of fair warning about just some of the kinds of trouble kids can get into so they can make informed decisions about technology use in their homes.
Cell phones are a powerful communication and media-production tool, especially if it is a smart phone. Remember that your kids can create text, images, and videos that can be uploaded to the digital world and widely distributed instantly, including websites, and onto other kids phones and computers. Once it’s out there, they cannot get it back. It could affect their reputation, college application process and even chances of future interviews and job offers. It’s your job to help them understand this and guide accordingly.
If you think your kids’ technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, even with your best instruction, it’s not just OK, but important to say “No” to that cell phone. But also remember, it doesn’t need to be a smart phone. A less expensive simpler phone could be a good jumping off point to allowing some responsibility without constant access to apps or the internet.