Baby’s First Cell Phone: What’s the Right Age?

*A Note from Kelly: Yay! We have a new guest post! It’s been a while since we’ve had a dad in the house! Javier Sanchez works from home as a software engineer so he can spend more time with his kids. Writing about cloud technology and advancements in the digital world are his specialties. I’m hoping that you enjoy this article as much as I did. I just recently got my girls their first phone at age 8. We have established very tight rules on it… but so far… giving them phones has been a really smart move for us. Now… read on… 

Close-up of a woman sending a text lying on a sofa

A friend of mine received a letter recently from her 11-year-old son, outlining quite succinctly why he should have a cellphone of his own. While we giggled at his adult-like organization and tenacity, his mother debated whether 11 was really old enough to be responsible with a cellphone.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, nearly six out of six out of 10 tweens, kids between the ages of 8 and 12, have a cellphone provided by their parents, and WebMD reports that twice as many kids have cellphones today as had them in 2004. However, deciding what’s right for your particular child can be difficult.

Arguments for getting your child a cellphone

Most parents (84 percent) cite safety as their primary reason for getting their son or daughter a cellphone, according to the Consumer Reports study. There’s no denying the convenience of being able to reach your child without fuss and having them be able to reach you in an emergency. Having a cellphone also helps teach children responsibility. They have to keep track of the phone and they are responsible for checking in with parents.

Concerns about children and cellphones

One of the concerns surrounding children and cellphones involves the radiation emitted from the devices. Though the amount is quite a bit less than one would receive by getting an X-ray, WebMD points out that little research has been done on the effects of cellphones to developing brains. They also cite concerns about cellphones interrupting sleep and the fact that 28 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers texting or making a cellphone call.

Sexting (sending nude or semi-nude pictures via a cellphone) is another big concern. Such pictures can have long-lasting consequences, such as affecting job chances and even landing the child in jail. SheKnows.com suggests telling your child not to post anything she wouldn’t be comfortable having her grandmother see. The possibility of sexting also makes a good argument for getting your child a “no frills” phone. Many T-mobile cellphones, for example, can be set up to block certain websites, messages, international call and more.

Saving money on your child’s cellphone

Once you decide that your child is ready for his or her own phone, find a phone and a plan that best fits your budget. Most kids want the latest smartphone, but savvy parents are looking to find the most affordable, basic cellphone and calling plan available. Ask your service provider about any parental control services that it offers to find out how to limit web surfing and prevent excessive texting, to prevent sky-high phone bills.

Getting a cellphone for your child doesn’t have to break the budget. According to Consumer Reports, 92 percent of parents surveyed pay less than $75 per month for their child’s calling plan. Eschew the bells and whistles like Web access. Most kids can access the Internet both at home and school; do they really need Web capability on their phone? Prepaid phone plans can also help you keep a handle on your child’s phone usage. Such plans have gotten a lot more sophisticated in the past few years and now most offer texting and/or data plans.

Deciding to buy your child a cellphone is a big decision. Take your time to weigh the pros and cons. You can take comfort in the fact that 89 percent of the parents in the Consumer Reports study were happy they had chosen to buy the phone.

Do your kids have phones? What went into the decision making process? And… if  your kids don’t have phones… When will you take the leap!?