18 Moms Weigh In on Best Age for a Kid’s First Cellphone

Even experts disagree, so parents shared insights — including, 'Let them be children as long as possible'

Remember back when we were younger and the biggest phone conundrums we faced were whether or not our parents would pick up the line mid-conversation?

Or while we were on the internet, thereby severing our dial-up connection?

Today’s generation of children know technology in a way we never did — and with that knowledge comes much debate. Should kids be allowed to have their own cellphones? If so, what age is appropriate?

Since even experts seem conflicted on the subject, we decided to ask real moms at what age they feel kids are old enough to handle the responsibility of a cellphone — and why.

1.) It depends on the type of phone and accessibility. “Lane has an iPad now, and he’s seven. I like that he can FaceTime me if we go out of town or if he goes to someone’s house. It’s also nice if a babysitter is watching them and I can check in.” — Audrey G.

“When they are old enough to be places without parents. No data plan, just a phone. IPads and iPods can text and FaceTime for young kiddos.” — Angel P.

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2.) When they start to gain more independence. “When they are on their own — going to the mall, with friends, etc. — so late middle school? And good luck trying to keep it from them that long. We caved in seventh grade, I think. My daughter was one of the only kids in sixth grade not to have one, so she would take an old one and pretend she was talking to someone!” — Pam L.

“My kid will get one when she starts playing high school sports and needs to call me to notify me when to pick her up from practice or when the game bus gets back to school, etc.” — Jeanne S.

“Definitely when they are old enough to hang out at places with friends and I’m not there. I want my kids to have access to call home in case of emergencies, concerns, etc. There are no public phones these days and hardly anyone has a home phone.” — Angela M.

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“I wanted to wait until high school … but my kids walk to school every morning, so we purchased them a community phone to let us know they made it to school and to let us know when they were on their way home. They are 10 and 11 years old. But they aren’t allowed to use it any other time.” — Liz W.

“They should be able to use/borrow a family cellphone when they are old enough to be left alone at practice to call for a ride. They need a cellphone of their own when they begin to drive. With the cell comes great responsibility! Families must make that clear as well.” — Penny B.

3.) When they are old enough to drive. “Once they start driving! I’m holding firm to that one … even though I have a really long time to go [laughs]. I’m completely against them having one at a young age; it opens too many doors to trouble, predators, etc. If they want one to strictly talk on one before that point, they can get a part-time job to pay for the phone and minutes to go with it. (Doubt I’ll even go for that though — tough love over here!)” — Ansley S.

“My son Brody just turned 12, and I’m still not ready to give him one. I’m thinking he will get his first phone when he starts driving. Other than that, I don’t see the need for him to have one.” — Ashley S.

“Driving age. I will have all the passwords and can check it at any time.” — Katie D.

4.) When they can chip in financially. “As soon as they can afford to buy it.” — Linda F.

“Not until they can pay for it! I survived. I’m irritated with people putting their faces on cellphones in public.” — Teresa B.

5.) It’s a judgment call. “Well, I think when they are 13. Isaac has wanted one for a while. We said, ‘No — you could use the house phone.’ Long story short, he got his daddy’s old iPhone so he could download music and text apps, which are monitored. He has had it for a while now and has been responsible. He is in sports now, and he needs to get a hold of us. So I am upgrading my phone soon, we will add a line and he will get my phone with his own number.” — Amanda S.

“When they are responsible and prove that to their parents.” — Mary S.

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“We have an old ‘dummy’ phone that has minutes loaded onto it for when our children are away from us. But I have to say, I can see the other side of the cellphone debate. I have students who go home and there’s no one at the house when they get off the bus. They use the phone to let their mom or dad, who’s still at work, know that they are safe. I agree with the data plan/smartphone statement. However, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. For instance, parents could be going through a divorce and one parent won’t let the kids use their phone to call the other parent when they are in his or her care. Never is always a strong word and sometimes we have to eat our words because things don’t always go as we’d planned them.” — Shelley M.

6.) On the fence … “There are so many predators nowadays that it’s scary to give them one, but at the same time, having one could save their life or someone else’s! So that’s a tough question to answer.” — Hollie S.

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“When they begin going places without me other than school, we will discuss it. At this point, I don’t believe in smartphones for kids. It’s hard enough growing up without access to any and everything on the internet. I know I can’t shield them forever, but the potential is there for addictions (from things seen) to form at a very early age.” — Constance M.

“Too many young parents use cellphones to entertain their little ones instead of interacting with them. I see way too many tragedies, kidnappings, children growing up way too soon, etc. Our children deserve to be children and to interact with friends in their age group — learning to play games and enjoy outside activities. Cellphones and too much TV also cause obesity and abnormal thinking skills! They grow up too fast as it is. Let them be children as long as possible.” — Gayla G.

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in Charleston, South Carolina. This article originally appeared in SheKnows and is used by permission.

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