At What Age Do You Give Your Child A Cell Phone?

A question that most parents struggle with is when to buy their kids their first cell phone. Each of my kids have been given cell phones and each were given at different ages, depending on the kid.

I can remember when Lakendra was approaching her 11th birthday. She wanted a cell phone so bad. She had been begging and pleading her case on why she deserved one. At the time I did not take her request seriously. But she did have a point. After school each day she walked her brother to my husbands parents house about 8 blocks away while I was still at work. Anything could happen to them. Instead of purchasing her a cell phone, I purchased some dolls she really wanted. If she collected all four dolls, she could mail in for a free pre-paid cell phone. In my mind, I did not buy her the cell phone, it was a perk of getting all four of the dolls. She had no text messaging, pictures, or data and could only use 50 minutes per month.

kids with cell phones

Leandra with her cell phone

In the last 7 years, technology has changed by leaps and bounds. This year Tevin turned 12 and I felt it was time he too had a cell phone. He was sometimes after school for football practice and I needed to be able to get in touch with him in case of an emergency. I added him to our AT&T family plan. He has as many minutes as he wants along with unlimited text messaging. I check his phone and account often. He uses less than 100 minutes and 200 text messages per month, and most of that is to my husband and I. I do not pay for data for my kids. I feel that if they want data, when they are old enough to pay for it themselves, they can get it. The same thing goes for smartphones.

Many parents have the same dilemma when trying to make the decision to purchase a cell phone for their kids. Age and maturity are the largest factors.

verizon wireless

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  • How independent are your kids?
  • Do your children “need” to be in touch for safety reasons — or social ones?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?
  • Do they really need a smart phone that is also their music device, a portable movie and game player, and portal to the Internet?


Here is what other moms had to say about giving their kids cell phones:

My boys are 7&8 and I am guessing that they will not need cell phones until they are around 12 or 13 and in Middle School and that’s if they play sports or are in after school clubs. I would want to know they could get a call to me if their bus broke down on the way to a game or if practice was cancelled. ——- via Shasta:


Personally, I think kids having cell phones is unnecessary. Babies are given cell phones to play with (as teethers) and their skulls haven’t sufficiently hardened, so their tender brains are likely exposed to more radiation. A five year old having a cell phone seems ridiculous, a ten year old with a cell phone texts all day and is totally oblivious of the world around him, and any kid with a cell phone that isn’t restricted is vulnerable to predators or being bullied into sexting. There should be a really, really good reason a child has a cell phone, other than the parent wants to be able to reach their child because they have no clue what their kid is doing. A cell phone isn’t a baby sitter. —– via Penelope :


My oldest son got his first cell phone in middle school.  He is now 18.  My youngest son is 7 and for whatever reason he believes he really needs one as well.  It has been his number 1 request for Christmas and birthdays for a couple years now.  I guess because everyone else has one he thinks it is only fair he gets one too.  I’m afraid he is going to have to wait a few years. —- via Lisa:


I think more than likely we will end up getting our boys phones once they hit middle school. Not for babysitting them but for emergency situations. I have 4 boys very close in age (6, 4, 4 and 2) and the likelihood of them all being in the same extra curricular activities is pretty slim. I expect to have to bring one here and one there and if they need to get a hold of me then I want them to have that ability. However, I may just get them basic phones just for making calls. No texting, Internet, etc.  —- via Marianna:


My 10 year old has one, but it’s mostly for texting and calling his cousins and grandmother. He also takes it with them when they are gone to grandma’s on the weekend so he can text me. We have him a Kajeet phone and it turns off at 9PM. He can’t make or accept any calls after then. Plus it has a GPS just in case. My daughter who is 7 had asked for one on her birthday and we said no, but have decided she could get one for Christmas. Again mainly for texting and talking to family. I think in today’s technology age it’s ok to let your kids have them as long as they are responsible with other electronics and you don’t use it as a babysitter. —-via Kas:

What are your opinions on the appropriate age to allow kids to have cell phones?

Jessica Benton (1402 Posts)

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  1. Lilly says

    Depending on different situations, I think that 11/12 is a good age for cell phones, and then I agree that prepaid is the way to go, my daughter got a prepaid tracfone at age 12, and she knows that if she wastes the minutes she has to pay for more out of her pocket money.

  2. Jennifer says

    When they are out partipating in activites, sleeping over, etc. I say prepaid minutes 10 to around 15, if they want extra minutes they can get them from chores/plus you can limit the useage. You can always add minutes should they have sports events, sleep over just in case, etc. 15 up add to a plan or double up the prepaid.

  3. says

    I’m kind of baffled at the kids younger than 10 having a cell phone and those that say they’d never buy their child a phone. I think buying my daughters a cell phone is going to depend on their maturity and the circumstances surrounding the necessity of one in each situation.

  4. says

    I’m still completely undecided on this subject. I think it’s completely dependent on the child’s maturity and behavior. If my kids grow up and I know that they are totally trustworthy, they might get one sooner than if they are troublemakers. I will say that I don’t think young kids (middle school or younger) need internet or texting. If they get a phone at that age, it will be a simple, no-nonsense phone to allow them to call home and *maybe* their friends.