"Can I have a cell phone?" made it as one of the top 50 questions kids ask in my new book, "The Tops 50 Questions Kids Ask"! There is no right or wrong age for a child to get a phone, however, in my experience the majority of kids get a cell when they go into middles school, fewer in the upper elementary grades and even fewer in the earlier grades.
That being said, getting your child a phone because she's begs, is NOT a good reason! Neither is "because everyone else has one"--this probably won't be close to the truth until the near the end of middle school or high school!
The time to get your child a phone is when it seems right for your family. Remember, under the right circumstances, a cell phone can be a fantastic way to communicate with your child. For example: --if she is on a travel sports team and you want to be able to be in touch with her when she's on the move. --you work/travel a lot or she has a hectic schedule and you feel texting/talking to her is a great way to stay in touch during the day (it really is!) --you have specific safety concerns (e.g. she's the only child on the bus for a period of time on the route) This can happen at different ages for different kids (although not usually before about eight or nine years).
It is important to review phone activity--you're the parent and you pay for the phone! Especially review 'in school' use. If it seems like your child is using the phone too much during school hours, addressing the issue is necessary. In addition, you need to give your child (of any age) clear rules for how to use the phone. An 11-year old can begin to learn about the dangers of sexting (texting nude pictures) and should definitely learn never to send a picture of herself to anyone without your approval --never to take a picture of anyone without their consent --never to send a picture of anyone without their consent and your approval --never to text with strangers --always identify herself when talking to someone new and never pretend to be someone else when texting. --not to ignore your call or text or she'll lose the phone privilege. In addition with a preteen the phone may have to be taken away at night to prevent late night chatting and texting. Cell phones are linked to sleep deprivation in kids and teens!
Bottom line--their is no one Rule. Do what's right for you and your child, be vigilant, keep communicating and remember that a child who texts with you is communicating with you!
Good Wishes and Great Parenting,
Dr Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask”
This is definitely an issue that we've grappled with in our family's household, and have opted not to allow our preteen daughter to have a cell phone now. We're concerned she may not yet have the maturity to manage it properly, and that the costs and risks outweigh the benefits at this time.
Below are some informational resources you may also find helpful to your decision-making on this matter. Thanks for asking!