For starters, how are parents supposed to know when it is the right time to get their kids a cell phone? Should you based your decision on age or maturity level? Does it matter if they are tech saavy or not? These questions and many more will be addressed, to the best of our ability, in the article below.
According to a recent study, the average age for an American child to get their first cell phone is six! Yes you read that right, six years old! This statistic surprised ChatterBlock so much that we dug a little deeper to understand exactly why a six year old would need a cell phone. For most parents this purchase was justified for “security reasons”. Parents obviously like knowing that they can get in contact with their child at all times. However, a notable portion of surveyed parents also admitted that they felt that their kid needed to own a cell phone in order to “keep up with their friends at school”.
With that in mind, is there an exact age when a kid should get their first cell phone? As mentioned above owning a cell gives your child digital independence. They are free to search what they want, when they want it. At ChatterBlock we believe that age is not actually the best factor when making this decision. Instead we think maturity is the best indicator of when to make a purchase. Our advice is to assess other factors that may determine if your child is responsible enough to own a cell phone.
Some questions include:
Does your child tend to lose things?
Will your child adhere to the limits of a data plan?
Are they mature enough to use the cell phone appropriately - no texting in class, prank phone calls, or bullying behaviour.
These question, along with many others, are great indicators for parents to use when making the decision to buy their child a cell phone or not. We recommend thinking through this process rigorously and not basing your decision on societal norms, or what everyone else in the neighbourhood is doing.
Age and maturity are one thing, but knowing how tech savvy your child is should also be a deciding factor in when to buy their first cell phone. Children today have a much higher natural inclination when using technology. As a result, parents are often unaware of how much serious trouble their child can get themselves into, as they are not aware of how knowledgeable they actually are.
With that being said, being tech savvy can be a blessing and a curse. If your child is too young this could cause them to get access to inappropriate information well beyond their years. Therefore, parents should gage how knowledgeable their kids are prior to purchasing a cell phone. Our suggestion is to let them borrow your own personal cell phone one night when you are out with the family. During the night casually observe what they are doing and their navigational skills. If the play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja the entire time you should have nothing to worry about. However, if they are trying to gain access to your private email, texts, facebook page, etc this may be a sign that they know their way around a smartphone a little too well.
All in all, we know it sucks not to give readers a definite answer, but deciding what age to buy your child their first cell phone must be made on a personal level. Every child and family are different so it is not for us to say that 6 or 16 is the best age to make this purchase. Instead we recommend a careful analysis of their maturity level and tech savviness in order to make an appropriate decision.
It surprises me that you didn't address the category of 'need'. A major decision maker for me would always be how much a child needs to use a cell phone. I find it very useful to text my 17-year-old when he is out, to know where he is, whether he will join us for dinner, or when I can expect him to be back. I did not find that necessary at all when my children were much younger. At age 6 I always knew where they were and/ or when they would come home.
To me, this would be very much a deciding factor.
Another thing might be their ability to pay for part or all of the plan. My son really wanted a cell phone around age 12 or 13. He used some of his allowance to pay for part of the costs; I felt that it helped him to be more responsible, and to put a value on owning a phone. Interestingly, after about 1/2 year (and countless texts with his friends) he lost the phone, and did not wish to replace it. It seemed that all that texting, and being constantly reachable, was too much for him. What a wise person...