When is it appropriate? At what age should a child have a cell phone? This is a complicated issue that must be considered carefully.


At What Age Should a Child Have a Cell Phone?

Our eleven year old does not have a cell phone. Depending on who you’re speaking to, it is a divisive issue. Everyone is passionate about the subject. Everyone has an opinion, so here’s mine (& ours).

Why does she need a cell phone? I can’t think of a single legitimate reason. But maybe we’re missing something?

We always know where she is. Home, school, tutoring, chorus, a friend’s house, etc… She is always with an adult or near a phone.

Even when she is playing outside with the neighborhood kids, she knows the rules, only plays with kids she knows we approve of and checks in every hour. More on that here: 10 Ways to Lose the Fear and Let Your Kid be a Kid.

So, at what age should a child have a cell phone? I think it partially depends on the kid, but I am going to stick my neck out here and say the short answer is no child under thirteen should have a cell phone. Even then, I would be remiss to say it’s an automatic “yes”.

The long answer, of course, is much more complicated. There are so many variables to making this decision.

When is it appropriate? At what age should a child have a cell phone? This is a complicated issue that must be considered carefully.


Sarah is responsible for her age, but not always consistently. Chalk that up to poor care-taking in her early childhood development years. More on that here: The Story Behind Our Crazy, Totally Non-Traditional Family. She is a little naïve also. Would she lose the phone? Maybe, probably not though. Would someone steal it because she was careless with it? Possibly.

How about considering an individual kid’s capacity for responsible decision-making? That should be one of the criteria for deciding when a child should get a cell, right? Nope. Do you remember being eleven? Thirteen? Fifteen? As much as many of us would like to forget those awful early teen years, I remember how smart my friends and I thought we were.

Are we missing something?

It only got worse the older we got. By sixteen, we were all convinced that our parents hated us and wanted us to be miserable out of pure spite. Adults made arbitrary rules all the time just because they were on some sort of epic power trip. We knew better. Way before YOLO came along, we just knew that the only thing that needed to be considered was the present and our emotions. At the time, to our only partially developed brains, our choices seemed completely rational. I shudder thinking how many times I could have screwed up my life or someone else’s.

Most children and early teens are still the same way. We were lucky. I didn’t really get internet access til I was about seventeen and when I got a phone at the same age, it was an old school bar-style dumb phone. Very few of my exploits ended up on the Internet.

Not so much anymore. A bunch of Sarah’s friends have iPhones and Android smartphones. I guess her friend’s parents would be too embarrassed to give their kids a prepaid dumb phone. I guess.

The problem with our kid having the latest and greatest smart phone is that it would invite the outside world into her world. Into our home, into her bedroom. I wouldn’t put a computer in her room and give her free access. It’s the same thing anymore with a phone.

But, perhaps we’re overprotective. Maybe we were just really terrible kids ourselves and we’re projecting. Maybe.

I am dying to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you agree? Why or why not? How old was your child before they got a cell phone?

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