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Children and Mobile Phones: What’s the right age for a child to get their first mobile phone?



    Parents have always been faced with several “at what age” questions, including “when is my child old enough to date?” or “is my daughter old enough to wear makeup?”  Nowadays, you can add this one to the top of our list:  “How do I know when it’s the right time to give my child their first phone?”


    According to a Twitter poll @CricketNation conducted, 36% of people got their first mobile phone between the ages of 15 – 18, but 45% believe that the best age to get a first mobile phone is 14 or 15. 



    But the truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. All parents are different, as are all children, which means the answer is unique to your family. Consider how mature and responsible your child is in and out of the home. That’s just one aspect to weigh.  A cell phone is a powerful tool and can be dangerous if misused.


    Here are some questions to get you started with your decision:


    • How responsible is your child?
    • Are they good about following rules at home and at school?
    • Is your child careless with things like their books, homework, or backpack? If yes, there’s a good chance they will be just as careless with their cellphone. 
    • Do your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons?
    • Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
    • Do you think they'll use cell phones responsibly – for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
    • Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
    • Will they use text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?
    • Would a simple feature phone with just talk and text (i.e. no data access) suffice?


    Basically, just about every child wants a phone. You need to determine if there is a true need, or if you just want to give them one or not. We don’t have the answer for you, but we talked to several parents, and here’s what some had to say.


    We’ve decided that our 13-year old won’t have his first phone until the start of high school when he’ll be 14. We simply don’t see the need for him to have a phone as we’re responsible for all of his transportation outside of the home. He’s in an after-school program, so we know where he is at all times. He is also not really one to communicate with his friends outside of Boy Scout meetings and campouts, there’s no real need for him to have a phone. Once he’s in high school and has extra-curricular activities instead of a monitored after-school program, there may be a need to have immediate contact with him, but until then he’ll be fine without a phone.

    – Atlanta, GA


    Every child is different in both their level of intelligence and level of responsibility. In addition, there has to be a need for it.  What do I consider need? Well a child whose school is far from home and takes public transportation will most likely need a phone. Certain disabilities would warrant getting a cell phone as well. If a child can walk home from school by themselves, coupled with intelligence & responsibility, I would consider getting them a cell phone.  It’s about intelligence, responsibility and necessity. I’ve seen 3-yr olds with a cellphone, and as far as I am concerned, that is just too young – regardless of intelligence. 

    – Bronx, NY


    I've always been cautious about when to introduce connected technology to my kids. Our family decided that the start of middle school is a big life change for a child with classes, extracurricular activities and more independence from us as parents.  With that, my daughter got her first Cricket smartphone when she started sixth grade. What we also learned afterwards is that middle school is where kids must start working in teams for projects and video calling become much more important...so a smartphone is a must utility.

    – Atlanta, GA


    My two boys – ages 7 and 9 – could not be more different when it comes to judgment and maturity. So as a concerned parent, I want to have control over the content and exposure times they have with these devices. I try to strike a balance between keeping them exposed to technology, while also limiting it so they can enjoy the things I enjoyed in my childhood. I want them to be comfortable with technology, but not overly-dependent on it either. I use OurPact software to limit their daily use. I can give them access in fifteen-minute increments and even use extra time as an incentive for them to do well at school. I’m comfortable having them use the phones in the house, but I see no reason for the phones to leave the house . . . yet.

    – Roswell, GA


    I haven’t given my daughter a phone yet since she’s just 5, but I am considering giving her a rudimentary phone in the next year or two with video recording capabilities for emergencies in which parents have to be called immediately, and to record incidents of bullying or inappropriate behavior where either the child or another is a victim. This can serve as video evidence in reporting such offences to school administrators and the police.

    – Atlanta, GA


    From about age 4 until now (he’s 6), I’ve let my son use my phone from time to time to play a game or watch a video on YouTube, but always with my supervision. It’s especially helpful when we’re at dinner at a restaurant and just need a few minutes after the meal to relax. For fun, we once left a phone with a new sitter and taught him how to text us so he could say hi if he wanted to during the evening, and we sent little notes back to him. He’s already feeling the peer pressure for his own phone (some of his kindergarten classmates have their own phone), but I told him he can have one when he’s regularly somewhere without me that’s not school or aftercare. I will get my son his own phone when I feel it’s more useful for communication than as a distraction. So, it will be a few years.

    – San Diego, CA


    We had originally planned on 10 being the "magic age". We were pretty naive as to when the asking/begging would begin, but it started about age 8.  We looked around and noticed that many kids our daughter's age had their own phones, free access to parents or siblings phones, and other devices with calling and texting capabilities. We held strong on the 10 year old rule until – as a co-parent whose child went off for long periods of time with the other co-parent – it became harder to communicate with her while she wasn't in our house. Our decision to get her a phone at 8½ was based purely on the adults’ need to be able to talk to her when WE wanted to and not leave it up to the other co-parent's discretion.

    –Rancho Santa Fe, CA


    The truth? We gave our daughter her first cellphone at the age of 6 purely out of peer pressure. Every other kid in Kindergarten had one, and during the meet and greet before the school year, her soon-to-be Kindergarten teacher had parents fill out a contact sheet that included parents’ phone and email, and child’s phone number. We fought it as long as we could (which was just about two weeks), but eventually gave in after she came home on several occasions complaining that she was the odd kid out.  We started out monitoring her usage, but later found that we really didn’t have to because she didn’t seem to care much for it – she just wanted to fit in. There is no data on the phone – just talk and text. 

    – Calabasas, CA


    We try to limit how much screen time our 7-yr old daughter gets, however we want to give her enough so she is comfortable with computers, tablets, and phones. We occasionally let her play games on our phones, and we are teaching her how to get onto our phones to make a call, dial 911, how to get to contacts, and how to text.  We want her to know how to do this in the event of an emergency and one of us can't. As for her having her own phone we won't even consider it until she’s in middle school, at the earliest – purely for safety purposes.  When we do get one for her, it would be very basic, and for emergency only.  We would monitor everything that goes on it – too much inappropriate behavior is going on with teens and cells these days. Kids need to learn to be able to communicate with each other personally and not just through electronic devices.

    – San Diego, CA


    It’s New York – everyone has a phone.  My daughter is 5 and she uses her phone to text me during the day while I’m at work, and I love it!  She is much more expressive via text than she is in person. I see no harm in her having a phone at that age because she is on a talk and text only plan, and the phone stays in the house at all times. I mean, what father doesn’t want a smiley face emoji from his little girl?

    – New York, NY


    As an immigrant, we have quite the extended family here in the U.S. and abroad, so my kids – ages 4, 7, and 8 – use their cellphone (note that I said cellphone and not plural) to keep in touch with family and friends. We don’t limit talk time because they are responsible, and it’s family.  Their grandparents can watch them grow via video chat, and they get to share their life as if everyone is still in the same village.

    – Chicago, IL



    Whatever you decide is right for your family, here are a few tools to help you.


    Parent / Child Mobile Phone Pact

    Talk to your children about cell phone etiquette – let them know the rules for using a smartphone and supervise their activities.  Click here to download a sample parent / child pact, and have them sign it before you give them a cell phone.  Review the pact with them often until you feel it’s second nature.


    Selecting a Phone

    Depending on the child’s age and needs, you can start with an entry-level feature phone or entry-level smartphone with a Talk and Text plan.  They can use wifi at home under adult supervision to play games.  Their first smartphone should also be an inexpensive one – Cricket offers several entry-level smartphones at discounted prices such as the Samsung Galaxy Amp 2 for $39.99, the ZTE Sonata 3 for $29.99, the Alcatel Streak for $19.99, the LG Risio for $9.99, the Motorola Moto E for $0.99, with activation of a cell phone plan. 

    Cricket offers a $25/mo talk and text only plan, and smartphone plans start at just $30/mo.  Monthly taxes are included in all plans, and there are no annual contracts.  Plus with Cricket’s Group Save plan, you can save on multiline accounts – customers receive $10 off a 2nd line, $20 off a 3rd line, $30 off a 4th line, and $40 off a 5th line - on plans starting at $40/mo.


    Parental Controls

    For younger children, you may want to install some kind of parental control app on your child’s phone to keep them safe, and keep you from getting a surprise bill because they’ve downloaded several games from the app store.  There are no shortage of apps and software out there to help you control and monitor what your kids are doing on their cell phones – WebProtectMe, ParentKit, Kid’s Place, Norton Family, and more. 

    Android, iOS and Windows phones also come with some parental control that you can manage through settings. 


    We want to hear from you!

    What do you think is the right age in your family for kids to get a mobile phone? We’d love to hear your thoughts – what have you done (or plan to do) with your kids as it pertains to mobile phones.  What has worked or not worked for you?  Share your experiences with us on Facebook or Twitter @CricketNation with #CricketBlog.