The right age to give kids their first cell phone is really up to you. Age isn’t as important as your kid’s maturity level, ability to follow home (and schools’) rules, their sense of responsibility, and your own family’s needs. Getting your kid their first phone is a very personal and individual decision, but lots of kids start asking for them (and receiving them) as early as elementary school. That kind of peer pressure makes it tougher for parents who want to hold off delay the inevitable, but stand firm! 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. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.
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.”
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?
Adding a kid to your service plan can get expensive. For your kids’ first phone, consider these options:
- A pre-paid phone that doesn’t lock you into a long-term contract.
- A “feature” phone with large icons and a limited range of functions such as the Nokia 3310.
- A flip-phone like the Jitterbug Flip which is designed for seniors but great for kids due to large numbers and GPS tracking.
- A service plan with built-in limits for screen time, content-filtering and more. Check out Verizon’s Just Kids plan.
- Low-cost, pre-paid carriers such as Twigby, Tello, Boost, and Cricket.