How Young Is Too Young To Buy Your Kid a Cell Phone?

Your kid probably knows how to access all the good apps on your phone. Heck, they have probably downloaded them and shown you how to use them. The youngest generation came into a world of technology, and somehow it seems to be in their genes that they just know what to do with it. But how do you know when they are ready to own their own devices?

Let the Numbers Show …

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University found 78 percent of teenagers now have cell phones – more than half of them smartphones. What’s more, nearly six in 10 parents are buying phones for children as young as 10 or 11, according to a National Consumers League Survey.

Reasons for buying tweens a phone are many: education, safety and convenience. However, parents have a lot to consider when putting the power of a phone in a child’s hands. If you are thinking about getting your child a phone, there are a few things you should take into consideration. For example, what is the impetus behind buying a phone? Is it just so your child can keep in touch with her friends, running up an enormous bill from nonstop texting? Or is it for your peace of mind? Also ask:

• How responsible is your child? Can he or she take care of (read: not break or destroy) the phone?
• Can you trust your child not to text during class or disturb others with their conversation?
• Can you trust your child to use the phone in the way it was intended and not to bully or harass other kids?
• Does your child need a smart phone, or will an “old-fashioned” phone suffice?
• Who will pay for the monthly expenses and possible overages?

In general, parents are citing that their increasingly independent tweens use phones for keeping in touch when they are away from home. Additionally, parents who are happiest with their child’s cell phone use report that they set parameters:

• Decide when your child may have their phone; many parents do not allow their children to take the phone to school
• Discuss the plan’s limits with your child in terms of minutes, text and data allowances
• Set guidelines for whom will pay for any overage charges
• If you get a child a smartphone, work with the company to set parental controls, which can keep your tween from downloading inappropriate applications or looking at adult material online

Only you will know when the time is right to buy your kid a phone. Obviously, a texting toddler may be pushing the envelope. However, a responsible young adult who understands how to appropriately use a phone can help give parents peace of mind.