When Should You Get Your Child a Cell Phone?

By Dr. Susan Bartell

children and cell phones, kids and cell phonesQuestion: When should I allow my child to have a cell phone?

Dr. Susan’s Answer: This is one of the most common questions I hear from parents. It made it as one of the top questions in my new book, “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask”!

There is no right or wrong age for a child to get a phone, but in my experience the majority of kids get one when they enter middle school, fewer in the upper elementary grades and even fewer in the earlier grades. Getting your child a phone simply because she wants one or because she says ‘everyone else has one’, are NOT good reasons!

The time is right when it works for your family. Under the right circumstances, a cell phone can be a fantastic way to communicate with your child. For example:

  • If she is on a travel sports team and you want to be able to be in touch with her when she’s on the move.
  • you work/travel a lot or she has a hectic schedule and you feel texting/talking to her is a great way to stay in touch during the day (it really is!)
  • you have specific safety concerns (e.g. she’s the only child on the bus for a period of time on the route)

This can happen at different ages for different kids (although not usually before about eight or nine years). Once you give your child (of any age) a phone there are important rules to teach your child for how to use the phone:

  • Never to send a picture of herself without your approval
  • Never to take or send a picture of anyone without their consent
  • Teach older kids (over 10 or so) to never send nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves to anyone for any reason
  • Teach them that if they receive such pictures to immediately tell an adult and to NEVER send the picture to anyone else.
  • Never to text with strangers
  • Always identify herself when talking to someone new and never pretend to be someone else when texting.
  • Not to ignore your call or text or he’ll lose the phone privilege.
  • Parents have the right to reveiw phone activity whenever they choose–it’s not ‘private’ until they are 21!

Keep track of phone use. You may find that you have take the phone away at night to prevent late night chatting and texting. Cell phones are linked to sleep deprivation in kids and teens!

Bottom line–their is no one Rule. Do what’s right for you and your child, be vigilant, keep communicating and remember that a child who texts with you is communicating with you!

More Parenting Tips From Dr. Susan Bartell

How to Stop Your Child From Being Bullied

The Cursing Kid

What Single Moms need to Know About Sexting