All I Want this Year is a Cell Phone

When to buy your child their first cell phone.

Posted Dec 21, 2011

Is a cell phone on your child's wish list this year?  If so, there are some important things that you need to know before buying one.  Keep reading to make sure you've got all the information to make a well informed decision. 

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 75% of U.S. teens have a cell phone.  Of that 75%, 66% are ages 12-13 while 80% are ages 14-17.  Now that's a lot of kids walking around with a cell.  Cell phones are a large part of how we communicate with one another and teens use them a lot for socializing.  So, as your child pleads for that first phone and throws the "Well, everyone has one but me!" out there, they are statistically right.  Most of their friends probably do.  But that doesn't necessarily mean they are ready for one.  So, how do you know if your kid's ready for his or her first phone?

Here are some guidelines to help you decide whether or not to take the plunge.

1.  Have you dropped your residential service and your kid's giving out your mobile number to their friends? :()

2.  Is your kid constantly on the go?  A cell's a great way to keep track of your kid.  If practice is running late or canceled a quick text solves the problem and everyone's in the loop.

3.  Are you dropping your residential line?  It could be cheaper to add another mobile line to your existing plan.

4.  Are you upgrading your cell phone and have an old one to pass down?

5.  Is your kid ready for a cell?

  • Will he remember to keep it charged?
  • Can he keep up with his things or is he constantly misplacing them?
  • Are you going to have to remind him to turn the phone on and off?

While there's no magic age to buy the first phone, it's a decision you'll have to face at some point if you're a parent.  On a personal note, I asked a representative with my own cellular provider "What's the youngest age that you've seen a parent purchase a phone for a kid?"  The response floored me!  "Two" she said.  I think that most of us would agree that, that two's too young to have a cell phone.  In any case, weigh your options and make sure the decision is right for you and your child. 

If you're thinking about taking the plunge, research the type of phone you're going to buy first.  Smartphone's are the "in" thing, but is your kid ready to navigate the internet, download apps, create social networking sites, visit chat rooms, take pics and upload them on the computer?  They're called "Smartphone's" for a reason and even though they're super cool to kids, they may be a little too advanced for your kid to start with.  If your kid is not ready for all that a Smartphone has to offer then you might want to consider starting them out with a basic phone. 

If you decide to purchase a phone, help your child understand your expectations.

1.  Teach your child the proper cell phone etiquette from the beginning.  Check out a previous blog on phone etiquette.  Blog Link

2.  You may want to develop a cell phone contract to ensure your expectations are clearly stated.

3.  Remember you set the example.  If you text while eating dinner then don't get upset when they do.  And of course, never text and drive and make sure your kid knows the same.  For more on this, read "Death by Text." 

4.  Take a look at this video to learn about the best parent controls for the cell.

COUNTDOWN: How to Monitor Your Kids' Cell Phone Usage

Whether that wish list item gets checked off this year or not, at least you can feel secure in your decision.  May your days be merry and bright and may your decisions be right.

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