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What age is too young for a cell phone?

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

Is it time for a phone?

Is your child old enough for a cell phone?

middle school girl using cellphone

Kids are getting cell phones at younger and younger ages. Whether it's out of necessity or just to save your child from being the only kid in their class without one, you may find yourself adding another phone to your family plan even sooner than you think. But what age is too young for a cell phone?

Before you decide if your child is old enough for a cell phone, you should go over the pros and cons of the device.

The pros

  • You can reach your child at any time, and your child can reach you. That's always a good thing. They can call you if football practice ends early, and you can find them if there's an emergency (or if you just need to know where they are).
  • GPS-enabled phones mean you can find your child when you need to.
  • They'll gain a sense of responsibility and independence.
  • They'll leave your phone alone if they have their own!

The cons

  • There will be an added monthly cost, plus the cost of their phone.
  • A very real possibility of overage charges exists.
  • They'll gain a sense of responsibility (yes, this one is good and bad!).
  • They'll be able to communicate with people in a way that you can't supervise all of the time.
  • Other people will be able to communicate with them without going through you.

So are they ready?

If the pros outweigh the cons for you, then you might be ready for your child to have their own cell phone. Now you just have to figure out if they're ready. Here are some things to think about:

  • Can they handle carrying a phone without losing it or breaking it?
  • Can you trust them to follow your rules?
  • Are they able to understand the concept of minutes and overages enough to stay within their limits?
  • Do they act maturely in other parts of life? Do they finish their homework and do their chores?
  • Do they have a job that can help pay for cell phone costs?
  • Do they spend a lot of time away from you?

If you answered "yes" to the majority of these questions, your child may just be ready for a cell phone. Before you hand it over, though, be sure to set some ground rules, as well as significant consequences if those rules aren't followed.

Quick Tip

Make your number one rule "Always answer the phone when Mom calls."

More reading

Kids and cell phones: What you need to know
Lessons all teens should know about texting
Warning signs of cell phone misuse

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