Kids begging for a phone is not a new phenomenon, but it’s one that’s happening earlier and earlier. With many kids having access to a phone or tablet at extremely young ages, it’s common for kids to feel they need a cell phone early on.
It’s easy to tell you they don’t need a phone and set an arbitrary age limit, but the world has changed immensely in recent years. Of course, cell phones present dangers to kids as well, so what’s the right answer when it comes to cell phones for kids?
Deciding on an Age for Your Kids to Get Cell Phones
One of the biggest questions parents have is “when should I get my child a cell phone?” The answer is not as simple as a best-recommended age. It highly depends on several factors including:
- Access to a home phone
- Extracurricular activities/ independence
- Level of responsibility and behavior history
- Your financial situation
Cell Phone vs Smart Phone for Kids
Keep in mind that you do not have to get your child an iPhone at a young age. If you determine it makes sense for them to have a cell phone to call for rides or for emergencies because of a lack of a home phone or other reasons, you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars for a smartphone. Giving a child a simple cell phone first is a good way to provide the safety and security of a phone without the expense and risks (of social media) as a smartphone.
Preparing Your Child for a Cell Phone
Many parents avoid getting their kids’ cell phones because of the risks it carries. What if they break it? What about inappropriate texting or social media? How can I know they will be safe from cyberbullying and predators? The best way to minimize these risks is through proper preparation. Some ideas include:
- Reviewing the risks and signs of cyberbullying, pornography, etc.
- Setting limits for cell phone use ahead of time. For young kids and even pre-teens, it may make sense not to allow the phone in the room and to state it must be left plugged in somewhere else overnight.
- Parental controls. You can also set parental controls on most phones/ phone plans.
- Expectations. Layout the expectations you have regarding the care and use of the phone. If your child must contribute to the cost (via allowance, chores, or their own job) make this clear from the beginning.
In the end, there’s no magic age for when to get your child a cell phone. Evaluate your family situation and assess your child’s maturity level when deciding about getting them a cell phone.