Should You Allow Your Child to Have a Cell Phone?

Disclosure: In any review for a product or service, products or compensation may have been provided to me to help facilitate my review. All opinions are my own and honest. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Guidelines. Please see “Disclose” and "Terms of Use" tabs for more information.

Modern parents are plagued with all kinds of technology-related issues where their kids are concerned, revolving around the dangers inherent in allowing kids to access the unlimited information and instant connectivity provided by the online arena and the mobile space. On the one hand, you don’t want to deny your children the value that modern technology provides in terms of learning and staying connected, but you also know that you can’t watch them every second to ensure that they’re exploring in a safe and healthy manner. And when it comes to giving your kids cell phones you may be even more torn. While the prospect of being able to reach them at any time is certainly appealing, the other side of the coin is that they have unlimited access to calling, texting, pixting, and in some cases, data. This is a scary thought for most parents. So should you allow your kids to have cell phones? Here are just a few things to consider before you head to the Apple or Verizon store.

kids cell phonesThe first thing to consider is the appropriate age at which to allow kids to have a cell phone. Let’s be honest, at some point you’re probably going to get them their own phone, but at what age are they prepared to take on this privilege and responsibility? Some parents provide their kids with cell phones while they’re still in elementary school, but chances are that this is a little early. Consider why your kids might need a cell phone, or why you might want them to have one. Likely it’s because they’ve reached an age where they are allowed to be without adult supervision. For most kids this doesn’t occur until at least the age of 12 or 14, when you may start letting them go to the mall or run around with their friends for the day sans parents.

At this point you might consider providing a cell phone for the simple fact that it allows you to reach them at a moment’s notice in case of emergency, or even just to check in. However, if you stop to consider whether or not twelve-year-olds can be trusted to act responsibly when it comes to using a cell phone, you might think twice about giving them one. Perhaps the longest you’ll want to wait is until about the age of 16, or whenever your teen starts to drive, since having a cell phone on hand to call for assistance in case of an accident (flat tire, fender bender, or other) is a good idea. But for most parents, the beginning of high school seems to be a relatively common time at which to provide kids with their own mobile phone.

Of course, you might be worried about them using it at school, or you might wonder what kind of trouble they’ll get into texting and pixting with friends or getting on the internet. But there are a couple of steps you can take to ensure that they’re treating this responsibility as the privilege it is. For one thing, you can try to find a cell phone that doesn’t offer data (good luck). However, you might also set limitations on usage as a condition of having a phone, with repercussions if they are breached. And you can also let teens know that you expect to have access to their phones at any time to monitor their usage. Those that try to hide their activities by deleting call logs, search histories, and text messages may lose privileges. But those that behave in an open and honest manner may earn your trust (and less intrusion) over time.

Keep in mind that you are the one who provides the cell phone and you therefor have the right to impose parameters. Oh, and you’re the parent – don’t forget that either. You’ll likely get cell phone insurance brand protect your bubble coverage to account for damage or loss, but that doesn’t mean you can let your kids get away with misbehaving where their cell phones are concerned. You need to make rules and enforce consequences in order to ensure the safety of your kids where their mobile devices are concerned, as well as teach them a valuable lesson about acting responsibly.


  1. Good article. I think 10-12 is around the time frame for our family. There are a couple of points I would add. Many homes are getting away from land lines. A child home alone even for thirty minutes need to have access to 911 in case of an emergency. Old phones, even those not connected to a service, can call 911 if charged.

    As far as parental rulings go I think this article brings up a good point, the phone is mine… I am simply allowing you to use it. I think it is important that parents have access to passwords, text messages and call logs whenever they request it. Setting those parameters when the cell phone is first issued could relieve some heart ache in the teen years. In the age of cyber-bullying and social media this is crucial.

  2. I have nieces and nephews that got them around 9 or 10. Considering so many kids are active in a variety of activities, it really depends. Of course I think most consideration for the decision is motivated by peer pressure on the parents and kids. If you as a parent socialize in a group where the rest of the kids have a cell phone, there is a tendency for you to feel that pressure. I have a 4 year old who likes to take pictures. His friends used their parents old cell phones to take pictures. I tried to stand my ground and not give him one of my old phones, but I eventually caved I am quite embarrassed to say. 🙂

  3. I’m not sure what the right age and honestly all of our kids got them at different ages when we felt they were ready. They were all between 10 and 12. With sleep away camps and various activities where they weren’t always with us, we made the decision to just go ahead and get them phones. While they were young when they got them, it worked out well for us. It seems the trend is going even younger though…my teenage daughter works with 5-6 year olds after school and several kids already have cell phones.

Speak Your Mind