What Age Should Kids Get a Cell Phone?

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What Age Should Kids Get a Cell Phone?

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It's a common phenomenon these days; kids with cell phones. Each day, I seem to see someone younger and younger with a phone glued to their ear talking to someone. 

Many people do not agree with young kids having cell phones. I sometimes get look of disapproval from people when they find out my eleven year old has a cell phone.

I wonder what they'd say if they knew she's had one since she was nine.

What is it about a cell phone that people object to when it comes to children? Let's explore.

Cost of the Phone:

My daughter's first phone was heavily discounted because it was a new line. We paid one cent for the phone. Her second, and current phone, is an iPhone 4 that was again heavily discounted because we signed a two year contract. We paid $0.99 for that phone. 

Cost of the Plan:

We were walking through the mall when we happened to come across a kiosk for our provider with a huge sign advertising a special in which we could add a line for a child absolutely free. No activation and no monthly fee for 15 months. When that promotion ended, we continue to pay the monthly fee for their phone, at least for now. 

Responsibility:

For the first few years our kids had their phones, they mostly sat on the kitchen counter. They only left that position when the kids were going somewhere and we told them they could take it. Once they both got a little older they were allowed to take their phone with them whenever they wanted. Of course that responsibility came with two stipulations:

1.) If they abuse the privilege, or get into any trouble for that matter, the phone was likely the first thing to be taken away.

2.) If the phone was lost, stolen, or broken they would be without a phone unless they wanted to pay for a new one themselves.

3.) While the phones may now be entertainment as well as a way to communicate with their friends, their main purpose is for us to have a direct line to them. Answer your phone when we call, respond to our texts promptly. Fail to do this, and the phone is gone.

My Thoughts:

Our kids have handled their cell phones extremely responsibly. Our family has never lost a cell phone, and the only one who's damaged their phone is me. The phones are a direct line to our kids and come in very useful in that regard many times when a land line would not have been accessible to them. 

At the moment, we are using them as a tool to teach responsibility, but as they get a little older, we will also use them as a financial teaching tool. Once they get their first job as a teenager, they will be required to pick up the monthly tab of their cell phone. Even now, they are aware of how much it costs each month to maintain their phone service. 

If we couldn't afford it, we obviously would have chosen a different path.

So how young is too young for a cell phone? Personally, I think that depends upon the child as everybody matures at their own pace. I'm comfortable with the path we took with our kids, and view the cell phone a just another tool we utilized to teach them responsibility with both their behavior and their finances.

How old do you think a child should be to have a cell phone? Why?

Related Links:

Save Money Using a Wireless Provider

How to be a Rock Star Parent

Budgeting 101 for Single Parents

Travis Pizel, debt management plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the A Straight Talk on Debt blog. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Mine also got one at age 9 so we could communicate if there were any delays when she rode the bus home from school. She still has a basic phone that allows her to text or call but nothing else. She's well aware of the cost (pretty minimal) and doesn't want us to spend the money on a smartphone. She'd rather the money go toward her passion - her horse - which is expensive enough!

    Interestingly she's had a lot of experience with debt collectors calling since the last owner of her phone number was apparently having credit problems. Everything is a teaching moment right?

  • My daughter got a lesson of a different type, Gerri.....the previous owner of her number was apparently a pharmaceutical dealer, if you know what I mean.  After several unwanted phone calls, we asked to switch her number.  Normally it costs to do so, but given our description of what was occurring they agreed to do it free of charge.  :)

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