Dear Diana, 9/25/19
We have two children. Our oldest is eight. Our youngest is two. Our eight-year-old already has friends whose parents have given their eight-year-old their own cell phone. Our daughter wants one now too. My husband and I are in agreement that she is not old enough for a cell phone and have no intention of buying her one for a while. She has a few “play” phones, but nothing real at this point. At what age is it appropriate to give your kids a cell phone? We feel good about our decision to wait for a while, but are curious what your thoughts are on when it would be right?
I am happy for you that you and your husband are on the same page with this child rearing challenge. That, in itself, makes it easier for you both. I love it when parents are on united fronts! To me, I would have to agree with you, eight years old seems a little young for a cell phone. Kids today learn at a young age how to operate their parents’ cell phones and often want to mirror what their parents do. For many families, it almost seems like a right of passage in a way when the time comes to bestow a smart phone on your children. It’s a fair question to wonder when that time is right.
An interesting thing is that a cell phone isn’t at all what it used to be. A smart phone is very different than what original cell phones were. Bestowing a smart phone on your child also comes with a serious and strict set of boundary setting around electronics and technology. Long gone is the day when a phone was just a phone.
We gave our kids their first cell phones when they started driving on their own at age 16. Granted, that was a number of years ago. I think many parents cave in much sooner than that these days. Phones are also not cheap, so giving them to our kids is a big decision for a lot of reasons.
Another weird factor that has changed the age some parents see it fit to provide a cell or smart phone for their kids is the smaller number of homes that have landline phones anymore. Most households have abandoned their landline phones, so calling Mom or Dad from a friend’s house isn’t what it used to be. Your kids have to actually seek out a cell phone from their friend’s parents to call you if they need you. Knowing they have their own phone for those circumstances may or may not provide some peace of mind to you and / or to your kids. That’s a tough one.
Bill Gates says he and his wife held off giving their kids smart phones until they were 14. You can read more about their decision and line of thinking if it helps.
I think this decision is an individual parental decision. I have always believed in going with your instincts. I love that you and your husband talk it over together. Two hearts and two brains are usually better than one. If the two of you feel comfortable about your decision, I would stick with it until you have reason to second guess it.
I will post your letter on my website and hope that others will weigh in on their thoughts on this for you. Allie, trust your gut!
Thanks for writing!
Readers: Tell us what YOU think! Many parents wonder what the right age is to give their kids their first cell phone. Maybe something you can suggest can be helpful, as well. Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts.