When Should Children Get a Cell Phone?

Our 8 year old daughter wants her own cell phone. What do we do? She says other kids have them. Help!

Dear Parents,

As the particulars of families vary widely I believe that there is no “right age” for a child to get a phone.

Some single and full time working parents buy their children a cell phone at relatively early ages to contact them when needed but I generally believe 8 is young for this form of communication.

I often suggest that parents talk to other Moms and Dads about challenging issues such as this. Discussions with others can break isolation, produce new ideas and identify like minded families. Finding parents who think similarly about cell phones and other topics can be particularly helpful as children get older and peer pressures increase. The “other kids have them” argument is easier to have when parents know that their child is not the only one with restrictions.

It can be wise to consider multiple factors about cells, such as those listed below, before quickly “giving in” to a child’s urgings.

1.Is a cell phone important because it will help parents stay in better contact with their child?

2. Will it detract from schoolwork or other meaningful activities?

3. Will parental rules about the phone’s use be easily followed? (Times of day it can be used, when and if to use internet access, and agreements about the maximum amount of texts, talk time and replacement or repair details if needed).

4.Will a phone improve or derail positive social relationships?

There are lots of ways for a parent to talk to a child if they decide to postpone getting a phone. Moms and Dads can say a simple no, agree to discuss the topic in the future, or select an appropriate year or age to make the purchase. If it is possible it can also help to set aside time to talk the issue through. Many parents end up doing a combination of all the above. It is good to remember that it is OK if children get upset when told no.
An emotional reaction can be expected when parents ask children to wait for something they really want.

Best of luck as you sort this through!