I was 16 years old when I got my first cell phone. That was in 2004. My parents decided that, since I had my driver’s license and could drive on my own, it was a good time for me to get a cell phone. It was around that time that most of my friends also got cell phones.
But they weren’t the cell phones we know today. I had a small blue phone that was smaller than my hand, and couldn’t do anything except make a call, text through pushing the number buttons multiple times for a letter, and maybe play the snake game. I got my first smart phone in 2008 when the iPhone 3g was released, I was a Sophomore in college at that time.
Now I see kids in elementary school with a cell phone, and I can’t decide how I feel about it. In some ways, I feel like they are way too young. In others, as a parent, I understand that idea of being able to stay in contact with your child.
So how do you decide when a child gets a cell phone?
The easiest one is to go by age. I got a phone when I was 16 because I could drive and was going out with my friends who were also driving, so my parents liked being able to stay in touch. At that time, texting was pay per text, and we had a limited amount of minutes. We didn’t use the phones often, but only if it was an emergency.
I remember one night I was out with some friends to see a movie together. On the way home, we got stuck in traffic because there was an accident on the bridge to my side of town. We were fine, and we were able to go a different route home, but it was going to make us about 30 minutes later than we had originally told our parents. This is when the cell phone came into use, because I called my mom and let her know that we would be a little late.
Almost no one waits until 16 anymore, even though that was the typical age when I was growing up. If you go by age, then what age is good for a phone? 10 years old? 13 when they are teenagers?
Maybe it isn’t so much a specific age, but more of a circumstance that dictates when a child should get their first cell phone. For me, as I said, it was when I started driving. But kids are also getting a phone at a much younger age.
When their child goes to middle school.
Whenever they have to ride the bus to school in case they miss the bus.
As their child is entering high school.
Playing an after-school sport or in a club so needs a ride home.
When they get their first job and are somewhere other than school and home.
There are so many different scenarios when a cell phone would be right for a child, and it’s up to the parents to decide when they are comfortable with their child having that type of connectivity.
The last thing to consider is a child’s personality. Most important, do you, as the parent, feel like your child is responsible enough to have their own cell phone? You have to consider many factors in this, more than just what will it cost you to replace the phone if it gets damaged or lost.
A cell phone connects us to a lot more than just other phones. Would you let your child have a computer with unlimited internet access without supervision? Smart phones can do almost everything a computer can.
Do you feel like your child would use the phone responsibly and respect your rules/limitations? I know almost everything now is unlimited talk and text, but data is not unlimited. If you start to get close to the data cap on your plan, will your child respect that and limit themselves?
What rules would you have in place for your child in regards to their privilege to have their phones? Would they respect your rules?
Overall, the decision on when your child gets a cell phone is completely dependent on what works for you and your family. Justin and I have said that ours will probably be situational, and when we feel like they are responsible enough as well. But they won’t be getting a smart phone probably until they are at least teenagers. Until then, they can have a phone that will call us, and text us as needed, but they don’t need to be that connected when they are younger.
If you have more than one child, another thing to consider is when each gets their phone. As the older child, I hated when my sister got something at the same time as me just because I did. I got a cell phone at 16, she got one just a month later because she really wanted one. I had to wait until I was 16, she got it at 14.
What are your thoughts? When did you get a cell phone?