Nearly everyone has a cell phone these days, but at what age is a child old enough for a first cell phone? It’s a difficult question for parents, who want to have the safety offered by a cell phone, but worry that their little one may be too young for the responsibility of owning such an expensive device. Parents should first consider the pros and cons of cell phones for children, and then consider their own child’s behavior when deciding if it’s time for that first cell phone.
The best reason for children to carry cell phones is safety. Though parents like to recall the days when they were young and their own parents were much more relaxed about letting them go out unattended, these days it’s hard not to fear the worst when your children are out in the world. When your child has a cell phone, you can feel a sense of security knowing that you can contact them and they can contact you at any time. If the decision were based only on this, all parents would buy their children cell phones as soon as they start school.
Unfortunately, cell phones can increase the ability for other people to contact your child as well. Many smart phones today are internet capable, and internet usage on a cell phone can expose children to many things that parents might not want them to have access to. Internet access on cell phones is also quite expensive, and it takes some effort for parents to ensure that their children cannot use the internet on their cell phones. Even many adults sometimes accidentally connect to the internet on their phone without realizing it, so in the hands of a young child, an internet-capable phone could be extremely troublesome.
The price of the actual phone is another consideration. Cell phones are small, and children can have a hard time understanding the difference in value between a cheap plastic toy and an electronic device worth hundreds of dollars. A first cell phone is not necessarily expensive, because most providers offer a cheap or free phone if the customer signs a two-year contract. If that first cell phone is lost or stolen, however, a replacement phone will have to be purchased at full price. Cell phone plans can be expensive as well, and if you want your child to have texting ability, that adds more to the plan price.
There is no clear answer to the question, “How old should a child be before getting a cell phone?” All children are different, and you should consider your own child’s personality, behavior, and attitude when making the cell phone decision. A 12-year-old child may be “too young” for a cell phone if he or she has a tendency to break things, lose things, or disobey instructions, but if you trust your 5-year-old child to take care of personal belongings and follow the rules, then a cell phone will probably work out fine.
If you make the decision to buy a cell phone for your child, you’ll need to research different cell phones and plans. Many providers offer parental controls that help you keep your children off the internet, or limit the hours that they can use their phone. An excellent service for children’s cell phones is Kajeet, which gives parents complete control over their child’s cell phone usage, and offers inexpensive plans that favor texting over calling. AT&T and Verizon also offer parental controls. There are many prepaid cell phones, which are a good option for children because they involve no contracts and it is impossible for your child to use more than the minutes that you’ve already paid for, so you won’t have surprisingly high bills.
Ultimately the decision of when to buy your child his or her first cell phone is yours, but proper research and knowing your child’s habits can make the difference between a good first cell phone experience or a regrettable one.