When is Your Child Old Enough for a Cell Phone?

Most kids want a phone, but can they handle one?

By Tracy Leigh Ritts


Deciding when a child is ready for a cell phone is a hotly contested debate in households across the nation, and depending who you ask, you are likely to get very different answers.  All families and all children are diverse and so there isn’t a simple numerical age. Your 10-year-old may very well be ready, but your neighbor’s 13-year-old might not be. So, what do you do?

The easiest way to determine if your child is old enough for a cell phone is to weigh the needs of the parents with the maturity and responsibility of the child. Because this is completely the parents’ decision, the child’s wants or wishes don’t play much of a role.

Cell Phone Pros:

1.    Your child can reach you, at any time. You can reach him whenever you want, at any time. This lessens your worry when your son or daughter is out of the house. In essence, the phone is an digital leash you can tug.

2. Your home phone will be freed up for you and the rest of the family. Your child will feel a sense of privacy and respect. Having a cell phone can foster responsibility in your child.

Cell Phone Cons:
1.   Cell phones are small. If your child isn’t especially responsible or tends to misplace things easily, you may want to hold off purchasing a phone for her. The little devices are easy to lose! And if your offspring tends to play rough with things, the phone may get damaged.

2.   Unless you have an excellent plan, the costs can be astronomical. If your child has a job, babysits, or does other things to help pay for the costs, this may not be as much of an issue. Also, if your child is good at understanding restrictions and so will stop texting when the monthly allotment of minutes is up, you may not be as concerned about this.

What to  Do?

If your child behaves maturely in most aspects of life, such as completing homework, obeying curfews, and doing household chores, then he is probably ready for the responsibility of a cell phone, regardless of age. If, on the other hand, your son or daughter is still working on some of these areas, you may want to hold off.

When you do decide to purchase a cell phone for your offspring, remember to explain the rules to them. Is texting unlimited or does the plan have restrictions? How many minutes are they allowed?  When and where can they text (teenagers don't make many calls, except to Mom!)? Is the phone ever off limits (such as during dinner or on visits to Grandma's house)?

Look for plans that give unlimited text messaging and a good family plan on available minutes. In this way, when the bill comes, you won’t feel like screaming!  

Tracy Leigh Ritts is a freelance writer based in Ohio. Her most recent book is on wedding planning.