How old should your kids be before they get a cell phone?

Cell Phones. They are a massive part of our culture today. As a parent, it’s hard to believe that something none of us grew up with is now an essential element of our daily lives. I’d venture to guess that not only do most of us have them but that most of us use them more than other objects throughout the course of a week.

I see kids with cell phones, and the kids with their own phones seem to be getting younger and younger.

(old man rant)…When I got my first cell phone, it was only because I had the money to pay for it, and of course, because I love gadgets and wanted to have one, even though talking on the phone isn’t something I enjoy.

But ever since texting went from a nice communication alternative to the main way people talk to each other, things have changed.

Twice as many children have cell phones now as in 2004. Most teens — 85% of those aged 14 to 17 — have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14-year-olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Cell phone companies cater to the growing trend of multiple cell phones per family by offering different rates and deals, unlimited group texting plans and more kid friendly phones.

My kids have wanted cell phones ever since they realized the technology existed, but for the most part, we as parents have been hesitant to dive in headfirst and purchase a fistful of phones for our kids.

There are some obvious benefits to outfitting your kids with cell phones. A few that come to mind are the ability to contact them almost any time, and their own ability to contact their friends easier and not rely on your cell phone.

But how young is too young? Today, kids are using the actual phone to make calls very rarely. I know my teenage son sends close to 10,000 texts per month but probably only uses between 25-50 cell minutes in the same time frame.

There is also a downside. The parents foot the bill for the kid’s cell phone service, and more importantly, it could be stunting their social growth. Well, at least according to this expert.

“Our brains evolved to communicate face to face,” says Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, in California. “A lot of this is lost with texting.”

All of this and I’m not even bringing up mobile devices, which the majority of children already own.

And don’t get me wrong, having a device for your kids to use ChoreMonster is something we are quite fond of, but this issue about finding the right age for kids and cell phones is still a tough one.

So what do you think? Is there a cause for concern as this trend continues to gain strength? Or is this just how our culture is evolving, and we as parents should embrace it?

Photo credit: @kobak via / CC BY-NC-ND

Joe Long

11 thoughts on “How old should your kids be before they get a cell phone?”

  1. We are struggling with this same issue. We bought a cheap Virgin Mobile phone for our daughter (age 6) when she went to visit her grandparents in Florida (we live in Colorado). This way 1) she could call us anytime she wanted 2) we could track her with the phone. When she got back we did not continue the service, but she is asking for one all the time.

  2. Parenting isn’t easy, especially with all of the distractions around us. I think most kids want cell phone for 2 reasons:

    1. Their friends have them.
    2. Their parents have them.

    #2 is the most important. If your kids see your nose stuck in your cell phone all the time they will want to do the same. I try to only use my cell phone when the kids aren’t around. It’s hard but one way I’ve been able to accomplish this is to turn off notifications and remove many social media apps from my cell phone. This helps me to focus on my family instead of my phone when I’m at home or out with them.

  3. I think it is ok for kids to get cellphones. It all really depends on the age of the child and the parent. Some parents love to know where their children are at, at all times. It also has to do with finding an affordable plan for your kids because you don’t want to pay 100 bucks a month on a child’s cellphone bill every month.

  4. Well I got my first phone when I was 6! Now I’m sure your thinking 😮 6?!!?!?!? It was my mom old OLD phone the first ever IPhone! And for as long as I can remember, I got all her old phones. But the thing was I couldn’t -call -text -use cellular data and i didn’t know my own apple ID! Well for my 10th birthday i got a brand new IPhone 5c! Now on every phone i couldn’t call until I got the 5 until i was 9 and got my moms 4 I could FINALLY text! And my mom and I share a data plan, if i go over the limit i pay the fine and don’t get to use as much data! But i’m 11 now and STILL don’t know my apple ID so i can’t get any app without my mom seeing it, same thing applies to my IPad and Macbook Air, got all my parents old stuff i’m STILL am gettng my dads old laptops and I didn’t even get one until i was 8 or 9, and my mom still scrolls through my search history sometimes! And like i mentioned earlier i had the very FIRST iPad ever made until i was 9 and finally got an IPad mini of my own, my old IPad didn’t even have a camera. And i share data with my parents! So it all works out! But I’m very grateful that I got all this

  5. our daughter has had a phone since she was eleven. We decided to let her have one because she became a latch key kid. We like having her call when she gets on and off the bus. She also has the ability to get ahold of us if she needs to. Anything outside of that is extra. If she gets grounded she loses privileges such as talking to her friends, music, etc. she doesn’t pay for the phone with cash. However she does pay for it via chore points. She pays for it whether she is grounded from the extras or not.

  6. Paris, that is wonderful that you are so grateful for the things that you have. A lot of kids these days are so spoiled and always want the newest best thing. You have a great attitude and sound like a good kid. Your parents are doing a great job!

  7. I have been following your blog for quite some time, and this is my first comment. You offer such simple, practical advice that makes this whole homeschooling adventure seem not only possible but incredibly exciting. I used online curriculum for my kids. For both of my sons, nothing makes them sit up and take notice more than the realization that something is a hindrance on their inner freedom and autonomy – and they both see clearly through the illusion of independence that technology such as cell phones provide. Thanks for your article!

  8. Thanks, Sara Ellen! We appreciate you checking. We will continue to do our best to keep the relevant content coming.

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