What Age is Best for Your Tween or Teen to Have a Cellphone?

by / 0 Comments / 47 View / August 1, 2019

Everyone has a cellphone but me,” whined my 12-year-old daughter.

“Your twin brother doesn’t have one either,” I responded.

A variation of this same conversation had been going on between us for years. Since my twins have lost their North Face jacket, Nintendo DS games, and other expensive items, I wasn’t too keen to shell out hundreds of dollars for a cellphone for my tweens.

I knew what my daughter was saying was true, that most of her friends had a cellphone. According to TechCrunch, in 2016 the average age a child gets their first smartphone is age 10. Another survey found that children received smartphones as young as age 6.

Despite these statistics and my daughter’s perpetual whining, I didn’t feel that was a reason for me to buy her a cellphone. I finally caved when my twins turned 13 years old, but not because they were the only ones without a cellphone. I did it because it was easier for me for them to have one.

When they turned 13, they entered a new school, which was a junior/senior high school. At this school, they had the opportunity to stay after school to participate in activities or sports. Sometimes they also received extra help from their teachers, which meant varying pickup times, especially between the two of them.

The frequent changes became confusing (for all of us) and required them going to the office to use the school phone, which meant they missed out on or were late for classes.

It was much easier for me to send a quick text asking, “What time do you need me to pick you up?” rather than waiting to hear from them. Or it was easier for me to ask, “Where are you?” instead of frantically calling the school.

What Age is Best for Your Tween or Teen to Have a Cellphone?
The answer to this question will be different for every family and even for kids within the same family, since maturity levels vary for all kids. Here are some factors to consider:

Responsible behaviors: Cellphones are expensive and enable your children to have access to the internet. So you want to make sure your child demonstrates responsible behavior by keeping track and caring for material items before you allow them to have their own cellphone. You also want to make sure they can be responsible regarding internet safety.

Safety: According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2015, almost half of all American homes did not have landlines. If your tween or teen stays home alone without a landline, they may need a cellphone so they can call 911 or other emergency personnel if necessary.

Your child may also feel safer knowing they are able to contact you when they are alone. There may be other situations when they would be safer if they had a cellphone, such as walking alone to/from the bus stop.

Convenience: The more involved your tween or teen becomes in activities, it will be easier for you and your child to communicate. Instead of calling the school or their friends’ parents, you will be able to contact them directly to find out where they are or when they need to be picked up.

Questions to Consider

• Has your child been able to keep track of expensive items (such as jackets, headphones, iPad) for the past month?

• Has your child used good judgment when using the internet (you can check their search history or opened apps)?

• Does your child follow rules and limits within the home and school?

• Is your child respectful of other people?

• In general, do you feel like you can trust your child?

• In general, do you feel like your child is responsible?

• Does your child walk and wait at the bus stop alone?

• Are there times when your child is alone at home?

• Is your child involved in multiple activities?

Buying a Cellphone for Your Child
If you answered mostly “yes” to the above questions, it might be the right time for you to purchase a cellphone for your child.

Before purchasing the cellphone, discuss with your child how they can demonstrate being responsible by keeping track of their phone and using the internet safely. You can also let them know that you will be checking their phone to make sure they are being responsible and respectful when using the internet. You can remind them that using the cellphone is a privilege.  

My twins have had their cellphones for almost a year now, and they have managed to not lose them or break them. The communication between us has been easier. And it’s nice to not hear my daughter whining about wanting a cellphone. I figure I have about a two-year reprieve until she starts up again about wanting a car.

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