When is a good time to get a cell phone for kids? This is a very debatable question and lots of opinions are shared. I’ve compiled a list of answers from parents of all walks of life.
When I opened this question up on my instagram account (please follow me along here), I was shocked at the amount of comments that came in with the question of what age I should get a cell phone for kids. Technology is ever present today and it is a question that parents are asking themselves all of the time.
Here are the responses I received, and some very interesting tips and tricks that you will want to be aware of when you feel like it is the right time for you and your family.
10 or below
“My kids had phones by then in case I needed to reach them, I still have (one child) on the family app I control and I know her passcode. Smart phones weren’t a thing when they were little though.
“I think Junior high is a good age but withholding social media until 9th grade”
“We probably won’t get cell phones for our kids until they are around 12 or so and even then, we’ll do a limited feature plan”
“We got our oldest a phone at 13 but I think it was too early – stick with a flip phone and no smart phones
“My 6th grader does have a phone. We actually stayed away from iPhone for her because it doesn’t work with the lock down through Verizon. She has the Motorola z and we can literally shut everything off so she can only text/call specific numbers. We also have the google WiFi towers and have built in tech shut off times. We tried the watch trying to avoid getting her a phone but didn’t love it. It only has preset texts and is HUGE so it was uncomfortable for her to wear and got in the way.
Ultimately with extracurricular activities, going with her dad, staying home and dipping her toe into babysitting we decided she was ready. We are constantly talking about appropriate use, apps she can and can’t use and have open dialogue about some of the inappropriate things that are out there. She is incredibly responsible for her age and other than a few youtube filtering issues we haven’t had an issue. I literally check her phone several times a week and she has to turn it in to our phone station by 8:30pm. It’s such a personal choice and only a parent who knows their kid can make it.
Are you mean if you don’t get a cell phone for kids?
“We are the mean ones who make ours wait until 13”
“Wait til 7th grade and even then know it opens a whole stink load of potential issues”
“My oldest got one at 13. Before smart phones were smarter than parents. I’m totally freaked about my 6 and 8 year olds getting phones. I’m on the fence on this one. We may get a cell phone designated as a home phone, and let them take it when they are out. But it won’t be “theirs”. I don’t want my kids on social media and all of the scary apps there are now.
When they got lazy on that rule….
“I got a flip phone at 11 and then an iPod tough so my parents didn’t have to pay for data. Our rule was that we had to “turn them in” by plugging them in in my parents bathroom right before bed. It was only when they got lazy on that rule that my siblings started having issues with porn/sexting. I always heard “the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight” and it’s honestly pretty accurate when it comes to phones….that’s when I would get the inappropriate texts/pictures/ads.”
“My seventh grader got a phone for Christmas. Just a pretty basic one from Walmart. She doesn’t have social media or anything. But she uses it when she babysits, Music, and movies. We check it frequently but she’s also extremely responsible right now so until we think otherwise we’ve let her have it and most of the time she wants it. She’s not allowed to take it into her bedroom though and she can’t have it by her bed at night.”
“I gave all 3 of my kids phones at age 11 because they are in sports or activities. Then I can contact them if I’m going to be late or if their practices are running late. I think it’s good for them to have”
“No way” will I get my child a cell phone
“I STRUGGLED with this so much. I thought no way (my son) would have one. He is 12. No way this is a joke he doesn’t need one. He kept asking. And finally we agreed he could use our “extra” phone as his own. I disabled the internet. Removed all the games and the camera. I love the parental controls apple provides now and I feel so much better about it. But I am very aware that he is young. He can’t have it in his room or play it in the car. He has to prove to me he is mature enough to have it.
It is nice to know I can call him when he is babysitting and I know he will answer. I was using Alexa calling before and I often could not get a good connection. I am SO away that he is young. He cannot have any social media at least until 15 and he knows that. He also knows it’s a privilege and it can be taken away. I finally realized if I shield him from everything how will he learn to self regulate and manage it on his own. I know this is a work in progress.”
“never mind, you aren’t ready”
“My 12 year old wants one too. I see that value in it when he’s home with the littler kids or if he goes somewhere and we need to get a hold of him. The problem is that once you give a kid a phone, they will have it glued to them for the rest of their lives. It’s not like you can say “actually, never mind, you aren’t ready”. It’s something I don’t feel like you can ever undo.
So we are waiting for him to have an actual phone. But until then, we have an old iPhone that we’ve set suuuuuper strict screen time limits on. The phone uses WiFi, so he can FaceTime us if he is babysitting at our house. If he goes to a friend’s house, he can use their WiFi to FaceTime us. And if all else fails, while he is out and about (in Utah anyway), he can always find a church building and connect to that WiFi. And if he ever goes anywhere farther than his buddy’s house, he will most likely have an adult with him, so he’s never really needed a phone.”
“When they can pay for it. Probably 14-15 here. I want to wait as long as possible”
“Our kids all have their own phones. Our age for getting them is 14 in our family”
“What a topic! I tried holding off until 8th grade and held firm to all 5th and 6th grade but every year he had a better proposal to offer. I figured he needed to learn the basic responsibilities of owning a phone! We got him a flip phone for calls only. If he takes good care of it, charges it all the time and knows when to use it, he can graduate from a flip phone to a smart phone next year. Let’s see how it goes. He’s traveling to school alone and the phone makes him feel secure that he can contact me anytime.
“Full time with full access to social media/games/other apps, in High School when proven responsible.
“Our kids can’t have a smart phone until there 18 and buy one themselves. We’re the “mean” parents, but it’s ultimately for their safety and growth. We ARE teething them a gab wireless in 7th grade since the world is the way it is and I do want to be able to get a hold of them. But I don’t have to worry about them getting around security (they’ve already done that with iPads that were locked down).
“I don’t give my kids a full working phone til High School. We have just used the text free app on old phones or iPods before. I like being able to get a hold of my kids once they get into middle school.
“Our kids had to wait until 16 & they have to pay for it themselves”
“Only flip phone and it’s one to check out as a family. I’ve heard you give them a smart phone when you are ready for them to see pornography. If they want a phone when they have a job and are able to pay for all of it, I won’t stand in the way. But I do hope that I will have taught them all about the dangers.”
As old as possible!
These people are tying to hold off as long as possible, or judging it off of their kids’ actions and maturity.
“My twins are in 6th grade also and they do not have a cell phone. And not all the kids in their grade do. I know only 3 of their friends that do. Some have the watch phone thing though. Our kids won’t get one of their own for a long time. We will get one for an extra phone at home when they are home for those few minutes if I run to the store. But that’s it.
Fantastic tips for your child getting a cell phone
“have the phone live in a common room, like the kitchen. They can only use it in that room while home”
“All three of my daughters have the gizmo watch and it has been great for us!!! I can say so much about them”
“My mom is an assistant principal at Jr High in a very astute community. The things that happen because if cell phones is SCARY!!! Most flip phones can still send and receive picture messages. When preteens and teens send nudes (IT’S SO COMMON) that is actually distribution of child pornography! It is a chargeable offense and STICKS ON THEIR RECORD FOR LIFE!!!
I am a currently a leader of 42 youth in my church ranging in age from 11-18 and have seen both positive and negative effects from cell phone use. I have learned from the parents of these teenagers as well as from the teenagers themselves.
One of the best bits of advice I have received is to not give a cell phone to kids as a gift. Avoid big events like birthdays or Christmas so that when you do give your child a phone it is seen as a privilege and not pure ownership. When your child views this cell phone as their own property it will be harder for you as a parent to enforce rules.
Keep communication open and clear about what your expectations are. You can enter your email below to receive my free download for a cell phone contract.
Consider who will pay for your child to get a cell phone
Consider who will pay for the usage, when it is “lights out”, where will the cell phone be kept at night, and in what situations it is okay for your child to be using their phone. This is certainly not a “one size fits all” depending on the age of your child, personality, and circumstance.
Flip phones do cut out a lot of risk, but they do still allow for sexting and inappropriate behavior/bullying. Look for the resources below for how to stay on top of this if you are looking for additional help.
My son is currently 11.5 and so excited about the prospect of getting his own phone. Our current plan is to give him a cell phone when he goes into high school. We love using programs in our home to keep our children safe. Here are a few of my favorites:
HOW TO KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE ONLINE:
Utilize parental controls that already exist in your phone. I will be writing an entire post about this taking you step by step through the process. There are parental controls available on phones, streaming services and even your Alexa.
Is a service that monitors text messages, YouTube, emails, and 24 different social networks for potential safety concerns, so busy parents can save time and gain peace of mind. This service is also free to schools, so if you think your school would benefit from this please spread the word. They have stopped school shootings, potential suicide, cyber bullying, and online predators.
We’ve been using the Disney Circle parent controls for a few years now and have loved it! Circle has now come out with a new version you can purchase here that helps you to monitor and maintaining the usage in your home and gaming consoles. It is super easy to set up individual profiles and even award your children with screen time for positive behavior.
Whatever you decide to do with giving a cell phone for kids, remember that NOTHING can replace parent involvement. Keep asking questions and discussing the hard topics at age appropriate times. you will find that if you start the conversation early your child will ask questions that are age appropriate for him/her.
We only have our children in our homes for a short time and teaching them how to have a healthy relationship with screens is so important to their future development and journey into adulthood. At the end of the day whichever path you choose do what feels right for you and your family.
What is your opinion on the appropriate age for a child to get a cell phone?
Are you looking for more information to help your kids with their screen time management? Check out our screen freeze system for a step by step guide for how we helped our kids manage their screen time.
Check out the blog post about the screen freeze handbook. It talks more about the reason our family decided to do the reset and what all is included in the full system!
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