This post is sponsored by Location Labs, the makers of Safely apps for families and publishers of “Safely Times,” a monthly newsletter offering tips and resources for parenting in a digital age
Just a few days until Christmas, and you might still be considering if it’s the right time to get your child a cell phone! I get asked all the time “what is the right age for my child to have a cell phone?” or “What phone and plan should I get for my child?” Well, never fear, I’ve got your back!
What is the right age to get my child a cell phone?
Like with most technology recommendations, I have to go with it depends on several factors.
1. What is your home situation? I have a friend who purchased a cell phone for their child when they were 10 years old. Her child goes to his Dad’s house several days a week, and it was just easier for her to be able to get a hold of her son whenever she needed to. So ask yourself what your home life is like. Do your children have a lot of activities outside the home (swimming practice every day, dance, soccer, etc) Do you find yourself increasingly thinking to yourself “I wish I had a way to get a hold of my kid right now?” If so, then it is definitely time to get them a cell phone.
2. What is the maturity level of your child? Some 12 year old’s can handle the responsibility of a cell phone, some 14 year old’s aren’t ready yet. More questions to ask yourself “Does my child take care of their belongings?” If you are constantly telling your child to pick up after themselves, or if they ignore their assigned chores on a regular basis, or you have to always remind them to do their homework, then they most likely aren’t ready for a cell phone.
3. How old is your child? I would say the best age range to purchase a cell phone for your child is 12-14. Typically kids start babysitting around age 12. If your child is going to start babysitting a lot, it would definitely be a good idea to get them a cell phone. Many families today don’t have home phones. If your child has a cell phone they can bring to the babysitting job, that takes a lot of pressure off the parent of the kids being babysat. I actually hate when my babysitter doesn’t have their own cell phone. That usually means I have to leave mine with them and give them my friends number. Then I’m constantly asking my friend if my babysitter has called.
Now that you’ve figured out that your child is ready for a cell phone… what do you get them?
Basic phone: If your kid is on the younger end of the spectrum (10-12), then a very basic phone is probably the way to go. Which would be a cheap phone that can text and make phone calls.
Smartphone: Even if your child is on the younger end, you may even consider a smart phone for them. With a smart phone there are so many parental controls you can set to make it safe for them to use. In addition to being able to text and make phone calls, there are so many apps for them to use. I love to give my 7 year old a camera and see what she comes up with. She can take some amazing pictures. Giving them a tool that they can use to be creative can help them to understand what they are passionate about. Whether they are building contraptions on Amazing Alex, creating a field journal with Evernote or OneNote, or creating beautiful pictures with the smartphone camera.
If you are going to get them a smartphone, I wouldn’t start out with the top of the line. There are plenty of cheaper smartphones out there that you can either get for free with a 2 year contract or for less than $50.
What about a plan?
Kids these days are ALL about the texting. So whatever plan you choose, make sure it’s got unlimited texting. You can probably get away with a very low anytime minutes plan.
Apps to protect the phone?
There are some great apps from Safely such as Safely Family Locator (available through AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile), Drive Safe (available through Sprint), and Safely Phone Controls (available through Sprint)–all of which offer a free trial period. And of course, there’s also Safely Go, available free and direct from Google Play.
Hopefully now you can make the best decision for your family with all the questions you need to ask to find out if your kids are ready to join the cell phone world!