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Should I Give My Child a Cell Phone?

Posted on Jul 18, 2012 by Guest Writer

It seems children are obtaining their own cell phones at a younger and younger age. Studies have shown that 75% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 now own phones – up from 45% in 2004. Most parents cite safety as the number one reason they give their children phones, but does such freedom and independence do more harm than good? We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.


  • Can contact child (and vice versa) anytime
  • Child can call for help in an emergency
  • Family plans and phones have become increasingly affordable
  • Your old phones can be used as “hand-me-downs”


  • Children are able to have private communication with their peers
  • Expensive phones can easily be lost or damaged
  • Phones with web capabilities grant children unsupervised access to social networking, videos, and other material that may be inappropriate
  • Subjects children to dangerous behaviors such as cyberbullying, “sexting”, or cheating in class.
  • Older children may be tempted to use the phone while driving, which causes distraction and places them in danger.
  • Smartphones may track your child via GPS and announce their location to unwanted parties.

Eliminating the Cons

Though cell phones open up a web of temptations and potential threats, the good news is most carriers offer the option to customize your children’s phones. These features allow parents to block certain unwanted features like Internet usage. Parents can choose to forgo smartphones, and purchase feature phones instead. Feature phones are generally equipped with a camera and web capabilities, but do not include the operating system or apps available on smartphones. Parents can also choose to limit the number of minutes used, block pictures and downloads, or limit communication to specified phone numbers and times of day.

Software programs such as “My Mobile Watchdog” can be purchased from a third party and loaded onto a phone for additional supervision. For extra cautious parents, copies of children’s phone activity and text messages can be forwarded to their phones.

Look into Prepaid Phones

Another great option for younger children is prepaid phones. These models can be purchased with no strings attached. They’re not connected to any contract or family plan. Parents simply purchase a set amount of minutes, and when the minutes run out the phone no longer works. This enables parents to spend as little as $10 on phone service, and rest assured their child isn’t running up a ridiculous phone bill.

What is a good age to start?

There is not a “golden age” to give children a cell phone; rather the decision should be based off a few factors.

  • The necessity of your child owning a phone
  • Your child’s maturity level and independence
  • Your child’s ability to take proper care of the device
  • Your child’s obedience

Contemplate whether your child is at a stage where they will be compliant with your rules. Will they agree on your minute allowance, and rules for texting? Are you confident the phone will not be abused in any manner for the purpose of cheating or other inappropriate activity?

Most parents decide their children have reached this level of trust between 11 and 14 years old. This is an age where children begin traveling to and from activities on their own, and may need a line of contact with parents. However, restrictions on internet, texting, and calls are a good idea until the child is at least 15 or 16 years old and displays increased accountability.

Whatever age you decide is right for your children to get a cell phone, make sure to stay involved with your children and supervise their activity. Children who have the opportunity for private communication with friends may decrease the amount of information they share with their parents. Experts recommend avoiding giving your child a phone until absolutely necessary into order to keep the channels of parent-child communication open.

Author Bio:

Elli enjoys writing about family, child safety, home security and general home improvement tips.   If you are interested in reading more of Elli’s work, find her on Google+.





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