When Should a Child Get a Cell Phone?

“Mommy, can I have a cell phone?” That’s a question I’ve been asked for at least two years, and my son is only 8. One would think a second grader is too young for his own phone, but the truth is, 50% of his friends already have one. The target market for kids’ cell phones is 8-16 years old, which means he’s at the point where he can make a great argument for needing one. To me, a cell phone is just one more gadget that will keep him from playing outside, and feed his already apparent brick breaker addiction.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great reasons for kids to get cell phones; if they walk to school, are allowed to seperate from you in public places, or go solo to the park and other after school activities. But, to many children, a phone is a status symbol, like a PSP or an iPod Touch.  It’s one more tech gadget to have and dangle like a carrot in front of those who don’t.

I think there are questions you need to ask yourself before buying your child a phone like, “Is my child mature enough to use it in the way that I deem appropriate?” ie. Emergency only, no texts, for close relatives etc. Mine would be sneaking off to call people simply to announce that he is using his very own cell phone. Next, ask yourself, “Is my child responsible enough to keep a phone without losing it, dropping it in some sort of liquid or inadvertently stepping on it?” My child misplaces his DS games, iPod, books and other toys at an alarming rate. He can go on a playdate and return with only one shoe. As a friend once said, “Your child is ready for a cell phone as soon as he or she is old enough to replace it when it gets lost.” 

So, I'm still leaning towards “no,” but if you’re leaning towards "yes," here is a list of cell phones that are kid friendly and parent approved.

1. The Firefly, which offers speed dial keys for “Mom” and “Dad” as well as a 911 button and a parent programming PIN.

2. The Wherifone, which has GPS to track your child’s whereabouts, an SOS button, and options to limit the phone numbers that can be called.

3. The Verizon Migo, which has a simple keypad and design for little hands and 4 parent programmable numbers.

4. The TicTalk, which comes with five Leapfrog learning games and the ability to control phone numbers and times they can be called via parents internet account.

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