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How to decide if your kid is old enough for a cell phone

I'm the Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, and I started blogging to help families navigate the complex world of media and technology in kids' lives. I'm a family-technology expert who specializes in approaching media literacy is...

Important questions to ask yourself before getting your child a cell phone

When you hand your children cell phones, you're giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly.

If you think your kids' technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, pay attention to the gap. You may need to say, "No, not yet." But if you think they might be ready, their ages aren't as important as their maturity level, ability to follow your (and their schools') rules, and their sense of responsibility.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do your kids show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
  • Do your kids tend to lose things, such as backpacks or homework folders? If so, expect they might lose an (expensive!) phone too.
  • Do your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons?
  • Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
  • Do you think they'll use cell phones responsibly — for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  • Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Will they use text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?
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