Hey, Mom and Dad. When Should Kids Get Their First Cell Phone?

Parents, Patch wants to hear from you on the questions that get families talking.

Welcome to "Hey, Mom and Dad"—a weekly feature in which we ask our Facebook fans to share their views on parenting. Every week we get the conversation started by taking a look back at a question we asked parents the week before on Patch Facebook pages from around the area:

Your child is 10 years old and insists he needs a cell phone in his life to keep him safe and in constant contact with his friends. What do you do? Run out and put him on the family plan? Or, tell him to wait until he can get a job and pay for it himself? That leads us to this week's question:

What is the appropriate age for kids to have their first cell phone?

Take a look at what people had to say and join the conversation in the Comments section.

Debbie D. My oldest son was 12 1/2 & my youngest was 13 when they got theirs. Everyone's situation is unique. My oldest is now out school but my 8th grader doesn't take his phone to school & thankfully he's not too interested in it. Not yet anyways. ;) via Oswego Patch Facebook page

Debra S. Kids DO NOT need a cell phone for use during the day at school or after school practices! Schools have anywhere from 50-300 phones in the building which are allowed to be used for emergencies. Do not let your children fool you. It's merely a status symbol. They don't need them, and end up getting them stolen or using them during school which gets them in trouble.  via Plainfield Patch Facebook page

Diane H. My kids got theirs when they started middle school & were spending more time at after school activities. Smart phones, while nice, aren't necessary and add to the expense. However I do suggest that you find a plan that has unlimited texting and save yourself the huge bill when they go over the limit (and they WILL!)lol via Bolingbrook Patch Facebook page

Sue B. I agree that it is about responsibility, not just age, but my question is who pays for these phones? We have a tight, tight budget, and I just can't see how families can afford monthly phone plans. My 11-year-old (soon to be 12) keeps asking us for a phone. My husband and I both have very basic phones. We can call and text and that's it. I think the peer pressure to keep up with the Jones' and the latest greatest technology is what feeds the phone frenzy. Families need more in person face-time. As far as the argument that the kids need the phone for activities and whatnot, I don't buy it (except for an emergency) if you need to pick up your kid at 5 from practice, then be there at 5 - worked for my parents may years ago. via Yorkville Patch Facebook page

Mark D. A basic cell phone, or a full-fledged smart phone? We bought our 11-year old a simple little cell phone because he now walks to school. All it has is voice and texting. That's all he needs. When and if he wants a smart phone he'll have to pay for it himself. Most likely 16 or so. I can't stand seeing little kids staring at smart phones. I wonder about the intelligence of the parents, honesty. via Joliet Patch Facebook page

So what's your take? Do kids need a cell phone before they're old enough to pay for it themselves? Tell us in the comments below.

John Tips October 02, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Our daughter was 16, and at 18 was given her monthly bill along with her phone! We drilled it into her that texting while performing any act which requires more attention, should be avoided, as: driving, walking, and at school. Just last week while I was driving to the local market, some kid texting walked right out in front of our car, lucky for him and myself - I was in control of my vehicle and "Driving" had all of my attention! I believe that providing our youth with cell phones before they are educated enough to realize the consequences of their behaviors along with their personal safety, is irresponsible of us as adults!
Maureen October 02, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I completely agree that cell phones for kids are simply a status symbol, just like school girls needing mani's, pedi's and designer purses. We have created our own "little monsters". Our children "demand" material things from us and we typically give in, rather than argue or because we feel guilty that we are working parents and don't have enough quality family time. A 10 year old does not need to be surfing the web, texting friends, or watching you tube. My daughter got her first phone at 12, however it was a hand me down with no bells and whistles, and it was so she could be reached when she would visit her dad. I would say that 14 would be an appropriate age, or when they start highschool. They truly can keep in touch via the home phone or computer before that. Kids will use the "guilt card" to get whatever they want and the majority of us will fall right into their trap. We feel bad, because they are the "only one" who doesn't have the new Iphone 4, so to avoid the child's public humiliation or embarassment we give in to their demands. I too, am guilty of this, and will purchase more expensive items for my daughter and skimp on things (for myself) just so she "fit's in" and avoids being teased or bullied. It is sad to look at what we ourselves have created. It all started with the idea of parenting "to be your child's friend". We still need to be parents and stand firm on our decisions as we are their role models and lead by example.
Loreta J. October 02, 2012 at 03:05 PM
My son got a track phone when he was 11. He only had so many minutes and the phone let him know how much he had left, so I felt it was a good place to start to teach him some limits. When he was 12 we got him a phone on my plan with unlimited texting. Now at 14 he's got a smart phone-which he bought himself. It's been wonderful with him having a phone. He checks in much more frequently and let's me know when plans are changing, etc, because its so easy to grab his phone and call or text me. That's all I need to tell me he's been picked up, or plans changed, etc. it's much more convenient than trying to find a public phone and therefore he's more apt to stay in touch. Of course, if grades or attitude become an issue, the phone can always go away. At least for mine, he's allowed more independence because I feel I can always get a hold of him. It's a different world today and this is the new culture. I constantly stress that there is no texting while driving, ever, and to be respectful when using his phone in public.
LMS October 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Your kid needs a cell phone when you decide they need a cell phone. In our house that time is when the kid in question is responsible enough not to lose or break it and is frequently out and about, often on foot around the neighborhood or in subdivisions close by, and we need a means to get a hold of him/her without eating up their friends' cell phone minutes. That age for my sons was around thirteen, and my daughter hasn't earned the privilege yet. My boys started with pay-as-you-go phones with extremely limited texting capability (and no web access) and upgraded when they had the means to do so without our financial help. That's what works for us.
LMS October 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Agreed! If this post had shown up before I wrote mine I wouldn't have bothered. You make a lot of great points.
K L October 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I like the idea of waiting until they are old enough to pay for it. And at that point, I would have them by their own pay-as-you-go phone so that they can learn the lesson that nothing is free. What's the major excuse that parents use when giving their kids phones at a young age? "I want to be able to get a hold of them and vice versa". Well, honestly, you should know where your kids are at all times anyway - or at least have an idea. Obviously, it becomes more of a challenge when they hit high school, but at that point they can start paying for their own phone with either a legit part time job or some kind of odd job around the neighborhood. It's pretty simple, if you're going to someone's house, I need the phone number. Have the phone numbers posted somewhere. Know your kids' friends. Know who their parents are. Not saying you need to be best buds with their parents, but knowing names, phone numbers and addresses is not at all infringing on your kids' rights. And as someone else mentioned earlier, most places your kid is going to be have phones for emergency use. Also, more than likely, your kid will be friends with someone whose parents gave him a phone when he was 5, so they can get a hold of you that way too. :)
Oswegoraised October 02, 2012 at 08:42 PM
All three of my kids had to wait till they got their drivers license. I don't see the need until then. Then they can call for help if they have an emergency. They also seemed to appreciate it more. They also got their own plan and bill at 18. That helps with establishing their own credit and gives them responsibility.
Erica October 03, 2012 at 04:33 AM
I can't imagine my daughters not having their phones. My husband and I gave them their first phones when they were 12 and 10, nothing special, just a phone with minutes. When they were involved in a school bus accident several years ago, I was one of the first parents to know that the kids were fine, thanks to those phones. Many of the posters here are correct, most places your child goes will have phones for emergency - but just checking in or letting me know a change in plans is not an emergency and they won't be allowed to use the phone. As for friends using their phones, after a bit I had to tell my kids to not to share their phones - if you want to know where your child is, buy them their own phone.
BitterBluePoison October 03, 2012 at 11:24 AM
All my children have cell phones. I am able to see where they are at any given moment (or at least where the phone is) and can contact them when I need to or Vice Versa. You need to provide your child a cell phone as soon as they become involved in the world outside your home. If you have taught them right from wrong then there should be no problem with all the negative effects of cell phone use. I have six children ages 12 to 23. Smart phones are for the older children who want them and comply with our demands. If you can't afford the phones..don't get them. This is the 21st Century...try to keep up.
Michele brown October 03, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Our daughter is 10 and we have cell phone for her which she uses when we are not with her. We like knowing she has one when spending the night at a friends. It was so nice when she texted me good night and I love you. It uses shared minutes and has 200 texts. She barely uses it and only takes it with her to school if they are going on a field trip ( that is for us not her). Her phone is basic phone and like other people she will only get a smartphone if she pays for it herself. I got rid of my smartphone when I noticed I spent more time on that than spending time with my kids.
Mickey October 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM
My sister & I are are getting the iPhone 4 (99€ each)!! & giving my son & daughter are old 3GS. I never will purchase them anything new. Only hand me downs. & for that matter I never purchase anything when it comes out. I wait til they mark it down. I'm teaching my kids to be frugal & look for deals. & not to pay market price.
Mickey October 10, 2012 at 01:51 PM
When I was a kid, my dad gave me a cut out card board with dimes taped on it to use when I needed to call from a pay phone. I'm thankful that my kids don't have to use the pay phone like I had to. Didn't realize back then how much germs are on those handles! Wow!! No wonder I would get sick a lot!
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