Your Child's First Cell Phone: When is it Time?

Check out what guest blogger and winner of the Annual Parenting Blog of the Year Contest, Mommy Masters' Ellie Hirsch, has to share about her insight on the topic of kids' first cell phones!

It seems like my seven year old asks me for a cell phone on a daily basis. What does a seven year old need with a cell phone? Who is he planning on calling? Would it come in handy in case of an emergency? Do any of his seven-year-old friends have a phone? Should I consider this crazy idea? I never thought this conversation would come up at such an early age, especially since I did not get a cell phone until I was 22.

My son's response to this fact? "You are old so they didn't have cell phones yet when you were my age". TOUCHÉ.

Whether it's a cell phone baby rattle or simply watching Mama texting on the phone, children are exposed to technology at a very early age. They want what they see. Cell phones make our lives easier and provide us with access to anything and everything quickly and efficiently. They can also take up too much of our time and attention, cause car accidents, promote social media bullying and invade our privacy.

Buying your child's first cell phone is a very big decision. To them, it’s a really cool phone, but to us parents, it’s a big responsibility and one that can have both positive and negative consequences. When considering making the purchase, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are your child's intentions with the phone?

  • Does he plan on calling and texting his friends?

  • Is he aware of how to use it in case of an emergency?

  • Is his need for a phone only socially motivated?

  • Talk to your child and ask why he needs/wants a phone and how it will enhance his life.

  • What are your intentions with the phone?

  • Will a phone be used solely for safety reasons?

  • Will you allow your child to utilize the phone for social usage as well?

  • Will you be tracking your child's every move?

  • Have you thought about safety features for the phone to protect your child?

  • How do you plan on monitoring your child’s usage?

  • Have you discussed this big step with your spouse or partner?

  • Both parents should be on the same page when it comes to such a big purchase.

  • If you differ in your opinions, why?

  • Do you agree on an appropriate age for a first cell phone?

  • What is your child's school’s policy on cell phones?

  • Is your child allowed to have a cell phone on campus and/or during class?

  • Talk to your child's teacher or the principal to see what age they view as appropriate for a first cell phone.

  • Talk to your parent friends about this topic.

  • While it's important to choose your own path and not give in because everyone is doing it, find out what your friends have to say about buying a cell phone at such a young age.

  • Does their child have one?

  • Do they have older children who use a cell phone?  

  • Do they regret getting one or perhaps happy about their decision to hold off?

  • Is your child responsible enough to take care of a cell phone and use it wisely?

  • Does he tend to misplace or lose things easily?

  • Will he be letting his friends use his phone?

  • Will a cell phone be a distraction for him?

  • What is the cost of a phone?

  • Depending on your plan and what phone you choose, what budgets are you working with?

  • Will you be giving this phone to your child as a gift for a special event, i.e. birthday, holidays, etc.?

  • Do you think it makes sense for your child to pay for his own phone?

  • Have you done your research on the best phone/plan for your child's age and needs?

  • Talk to your current cell phone provider to learn what options are available to you.

  • Should you get a phone that just dials out programmed numbers for emergencies only?

  • Read reviews and articles on-line.

  • If you know of a child who has a phone, ask his parents about the type of phone and plan they have.

As parents, we need to weigh the pros against the cons and decide if a cell phone makes sense for your child and your family at this time. In a recent poll I took on Facebook asking what age parents thought was most appropriate to buy their child a cell phone, almost all of the responses were within the 10-13 age range, which didn't surprise me.  

There was one mother, however, who provided her children with phones at age eight. She loves the fact she can directly get in touch with them at any time and feels good knowing that if they were ever in an awkward or dangerous situation, they could reach out to her easily and quickly. To me, this reasoning absolutely makes sense and I believe justifies a cell phone at an early age.

Talk with your children to find out if they just want to be the cool kid with a phone or if there is a justified reason why they truly need it. Figure out if this purchase will ease your fears about safety and provide a way to track your child. 

Times have definitely changed and as new technology is introduced to the world, our children will crave the latest and greatest. It is up to us to educate ourselves and make the best decisions regarding appropriate technology that will keep our children connected for the right reasons.

­­­­ _______________________________

Ellie Hirsch is the founder of and the mother of three amazing boys. 

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We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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