The Right Age
For Cell Phones

Should kids have cell phones? Families have always dealt with the perils of having several kids in different activities and the necessary communication that comes along with that -- such as when and where to pick up. But these days, cell phones can make organizing day-to-day life easier. That said, are cell phones for kids a good idea?

Mom and Daughter with Cell PhoneJust a decade ago, keeping track of your children meant talking about where they were going, with whom, and when they would return. But parents today have a new tactic for keeping tabs on their kids: Cell phones.

Embracing the technology is working for some families, particularly those who set clear guidelines and expectations for the phones. But other families say that phones just aren't a need when it comes to keeping track of their kids.

Is there a right age?

When is a child ready for the responsibility of a cell phone? There really is no definitive age. But cell phones are more than just a free handset with a contract; they have monthly costs that can add up if kids use features that aren't included in their plan. So, if you are thinking of getting your child a cell phone, you need to be sure that she is truly ready for the responsibility of having one.

For some kids, taking care of the phone and making sure it's secure are natural. But for others, that level of responsibility won't come until they are a little older. Mom Meryl Evans says that, while her daughter was ready for the responsibility when she was entering the fifth grade, her son, who will be a fifth grader this year, is not. "His first brand-new iPod lasted only a month because he left it in his pants pocket. Yep, the iPod took a bath and never recovered. It showed us he was not ready for the responsibility," says Meryl.

Not for everyone

While many parents are embracing cell phones to keep their families connected, some parents aren't. Mom Jessica Gottlieb, who blogs at, says that, although she did purchase a phone for her daughter, she realized the device just wasn't a need when her daughter lost it. "She was about seven, and when she lost it, I realized she was just fine without it and that it was a useless tool in her hands. She was my first child, and it was my first experience with childcare outside my immediate family. We were all just feeling our way through things," says Jessica. "I like the kids not having phones. I like them being aware of where they are and learning to interact with the world. Even though I'm in Los Angeles, this is a pretty cozy neighborhood, and the kids could ask just about any storekeeper to please call home."

Comfort level

For parents who do allow their children to have cell phones, they can turn out to be an unexpected source of comfort. That was the case for mom Monique Jordan, whose 11-year-old daughter has a cell phone. "I was completely against her having one, but I found that it actually gave me comfort knowing I could reach her. It is such a fine line of wanting her to be 100 percent safe but knowing I need to slowly start to give her more freedom as she is growing up. This has turned out to be a big help in that process," says Monique.

Keeping tabs the other way

While cell phones may be a convenient way of keeping track of kids, some parents point out that it is hardly the only way to do so. After all, parents kept track of kids long before cell phones came into the picture. "I keep tabs on my kids by being there. If I'm not with them, I know where they are, or the general route they've taken. My daughter is 10, and she can walk around our neighborhood. If I don't see her out the window, I have friends on every block whom I can call, or I can hop in my car and find her," says Jessica.

Mom Katherine Cobb agrees. Her 12-year-old son is pretty much the only one in his peer group without a cell phone, and she likes it that way. "My 12-year-old calls up friends to play, and then they go to the nearby park or out to our backyard or to the local pool. We agree on where he's going, who he is going with and what time he will return," explains Katherine. "I think the world has gotten a little crazy about keeping tabs on our kids (which parents cite as the reason they are getting the cell phones for them in the first place, not that I believe that), when a little responsibility and accountability is what kids need for their own development."

Filling needs

The reasons for getting kids cell phones vary widely. For some families, having many activities and busy family lives make cell phones a necessity for all. For others, having two parents living in different places means cell phones make sense.

In Meryl's case, there was also a truly practical reason for getting a cell phone for her daughter. Meryl is deaf and thus cannot be contacted via normal phones. Since most schools aren't equipped with a phone that can send text communications, the cell phone gave Meryl's daughter a way of contacting her in an emergency or if afterschool plans changed suddenly. "Her plans changed at the last minute many times, so she was able to update me. For example, an after-school meeting gets canceled -- and I can pick her up. Otherwise, she would be stuck waiting," says Meryl.

Setting rules

As with any privilege, having a cell phone comes with rules, say many parents. Schools may have policies about where and when kids can have cell phones. Likewise, rules are necessary at home. Raffi Darrow says that, overall, her two daughters have been pretty good about following the family rules for cell phone usage, which include no downloading, no using the phone during dinner and calling only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. "The kids have been great about following the rules – except for one. They turn their cell phones off all the time because they are afraid the battery will die. But the problem with that is then I can't reach them. During the school day, they are required to have the phones off and in their lockers -- school rule. And I think that has become a habit. They turn the phones on when they need to use them. But over the summer, when they are out and about, I like to be able to reach them," says Raffi.

Tell us: When will you let your kids have a cell phone? Comment below!

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Comments on "Should kids have cell phones?"

kristy August 09, 2013 | 3:00 AM

I always thought it was a bad idea. I don't think kids should have the freedom to explore the web, you can only monitor their use so well, and parental controls will only work until they also know how to set them up. If your kid doesn't have the phone on at all times. It is useless as a tracking tool. It could take your child 2 minutes to get their phone turned on, or 20 seconds to run and knock on a safety house door. I can see benefits with them being about to call you if they need to be pick up from a park or the shops or something. But they shouldn't need to call you from school. The school has phones, and children that are deaf, should be around someone they can sign to, so they can pass on the message. There are ways around using phones. Plus phones are expensive, plans are more expensive, and your child will learn unconditional love and real responsibility from a dog. A phone is not the same responsibility. I think your child should have reached double digits by the time you consider a phone. Weigh up the pros and cons, think things through, you will regret it otherwise.

Eamily July 16, 2013 | 12:52 PM

i think kids should not have cell phons beacause theyre disterbed in thier stuidies.I think that when theyre done their studies they can get one

todd February 12, 2013 | 9:56 AM

i think they should look at the bright side that is all they will have a pre teen. I have a friend who just got a iphone.... She loves it and uses it so resosible. She uses it for home work and has a time limit.7am-9pm.

Cannot Say January 17, 2013 | 3:23 PM

Should Kids Have a Cell Phone? Have you ever wanted a cell phone very much? Did you ever receive one immediately? Many kids beg their parents for a cell phone. Most of the time, the reply that they get is a no. Why can’t kids have cell phones? As you read on, you will find reasons, about why kids should have cell phones. Today, about 80 percent of phones have GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking on them. A good number of people, particularly kids, have it set up. This is a fine way for parents or guardians to keep track of where their children are, if they have a cell phone. In addition, the constant begging for cell phones has increased by 7 and a half hours a day! Not only has it increased, but the hours of social media day has risen by 25 percent, among 8 to 18 year old's! But this is good, considering all that danger out there.........................................................

Abraxas August 26, 2012 | 9:08 PM

Standing in the sun is more dangerous than the radiation emmited by a cell phone. I guess you and your children have also embraced albinism,gotten rid of your microwave,computer,TV, and pretty much everything invented since 1982 simply because they all emit radiation? Please be intelligent.

Victoria June 30, 2012 | 2:29 PM

To anyone worried about cellphone radiation: I am a physics student and recently learned about the electromagnetic spectrum. This, as it appears is a list from most to least (or vice versa) radiation in an electromagnetic wave. The order is as follows (from most to least radiation):(http://www.extension/mediawiki/files/8/84/Electromagnetic_spectrum.JPG) 1. Gamma Ray 2. X-ray 3. Ultraviolet Ray 4. Visable light (anything we see) 5. Infrared Rays 6. Microwaves 7. Radiowaves (including cell phone signals) Therefore, you are exposed to more radiation just by having your eyes open (which you do now), than using a cell phone, microwave oven, tv, computer or landline phone for that matter. Don't believe every warning from the media.

Rocker May 23, 2012 | 7:25 AM

Some kids are mixture and you need to try to give them a inexpensive cell phone and see how long it lasts then if you think they are ready try to give them a cell phone that is more expensive

Rocker May 23, 2012 | 7:21 AM

I think that you should be able to take cellphones to school because of emergencys

josenyd cordero May 14, 2012 | 11:41 AM

i think kids arent good to have phones better listen

dyah May 07, 2012 | 3:31 PM

I think children should have cell phone to contanct their parents or someone else if there's somethings wrong happen to them. so their parents know where their are, but parents have to control the using of cell phone by children. sometime they must check the message and the historical calls, so the child not abuse the cell phones.

henry April 18, 2012 | 8:29 PM

I think all kids over 10 should have cell phones! They learn more social skills by talking w/ friends and texting. And calling them makes sure that you know they're safe!! Don't make ur kids a "mommy's boy" and not have one!!!

matt brown February 22, 2012 | 8:44 AM

i think all kids should have cell phones so they can let their parent know where they and when they will be home.

wowza December 06, 2011 | 11:19 AM

No kids should have cell phones until they can pay for the cell phone bills, replacing it, repair it, and to pay for all the apps that they like to buy

Amy November 19, 2011 | 12:14 PM

I am 12 years old and my parents refuse to get me a phone. I am constantly asking my friends to use their cell phones and it is kind of embarrasing to be the only one of my friends that doesnt have one. "/

jacob April 15, 2011 | 9:14 AM

NOT FUNNY JDB NOT FUNNY kids should have cell phones because of emergentsys

iprock the 11 year old April 15, 2011 | 9:11 AM

children should be alowed to have cell phones in school because of emergentsys

Katie March 04, 2011 | 3:07 PM

I am almost 13 and have had a phone since I was 6 and so has my brother. Firefly phones are stupid. You'd be better off getting a cheap phone and put parental blocking and restrictions if you are that concerned. Mobiles are so handy! When kids go on sleepovers it's a lot easier to bang off a text saying night nightxxx instead of callig up the house several times needing to know if they have their toothbrush or what time are they home! And when they start going on overnight school trips it's nice to know they have ways of contacting you!!! I've never broken a phone. My phone know was only about €100-130 and it's really faulty and the screen cracked but I still has it. If you are worried about bills then get a pre-pay and give them $10-30 a month for credit and set up free text! I think all kids should have phones when they reach 10/11 and when they become a lot more independent, it can help you relax when they're out and about! Just tell them how to keep it safe and stuff! It's dosn't have o be a $750 phone!

Ashley March 01, 2011 | 9:20 AM

Well, considering that i am only 12 and have had a cell phone since i was about 5. Me and my parents, we all agree i am doing fine. One time my bus was in a crash. i was the only one with a cell phone handy. so we were all able to contact our parents.

Carla February 16, 2011 | 10:53 AM

I think we can see from Peanut Butter Jelly's comment that probably it is NOT a good idea to give kids cell phones so young, and how important it is to teach them correct grammar and spelling.

cassie February 10, 2011 | 3:03 PM

I got a phone for my oldest daughter when she was 15, there were major texting issues from upwards of 10,000 a month to the content of those text messages. I took the phone away and don't regret it a bit. If she's going out for the night or taking the car for any reason I give her my phone with the understanding that it's for emergencies only. I will NEVER get my two yougest a phone, they'll have the same arrangement, when necessary they can take mine. When they move out they can make the choice to get a phone, until then it's unnecessary.

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