If you are the parent of a school age kid you have probably asked yourself the question “When should I get my child a phone?” In fact, I am certain you have heard a list of everybody in class that already has a cell phone.
You have probably heard people talking about social media and teens and you see kids and cell phones everywhere you look.
Maybe your child already has a cell phone and he/she is having a hard time following your rules, and you are looking for a resource to help with that.
I get where you’re coming from, because I was just in the same place! My husband and I just decided to give our 14 year old son his first cell phone, and I’m certain you are asking yourself the same questions I was just a short time ago.
In this article, you will find:
- Questions to ask before giving your child a phone
- Things you may want to consider first
- And (as an example) the plan we are using in our home so we can all be on the same page.
We also have a Printable Cell Phone Contract for our Just Homemaking Subscribers to help you on your parenting journey.
Concerns For Giving Your Kid A Cell Phone
Naturally, you want what’s best for your child. Not what’s easiest, but what is best. Wouldn’t it be easy to just say yes to everything?
Yes, you can have a cell phone in 5th grade because two of your closest friends have one.
Yes, let’s get you set up with a social media account.
Yes, you can keep your phone in your room all night and look at whatever you come across.
Parenting is hard when you care to do it right. Most of us have concerns. Here are some of ours when it comes to kids and cell phones.
Social Media and Teens
I have seen it. You have seen it. It’s a very real part of our lives right now. The attacks on social media are so hurtful.
Words said to friends/family/acquaintances that bring goosebumps on my arms. Behaviors that are hard to explain to our growing children.
And this is coming from grown adults!
Adults who have a fully developed frontal lobe. The frontal lobe, the part of the brain that helps to manage emotions, impulse control, problem solving, and social interaction, is fully developed around age 25. I’m not sure why it’s such a struggle on social media.
My husband and I have disconnected ourselves from social media on a few occasions. Sometimes to focus on other things and sometimes to avoid seeing/reading what hurtful things others are saying to each other.
This isn’t something I want my teenager exposed to on a cell phone. Thankfully, this hasn’t been an issue in our circumstance as our son doesn’t even want to have social media at this point.
Bad Things On The Internet
Another concern we have had is the amount of dangerous, unhealthy, distracting things that can be found on the internet by a simple search. Obviously this can take place any time and any place.
The news itself is something we have concerns about.
Again, we don’t want our children living in a bubble. We want to talk about what’s happening in the world in a non-demeaning way. But putting access to find these headlines in our kids’ hands means we don’t get the first chance to explain or discuss things with them. The world will be filling in the gaps for us.
Child luring and child trafficking are taking place everywhere. Everywhere.
So is pornography. If you need help knowing how to address this issue in your home, fellow Just Homemaker, Nicole, wrote a great post for us: 6 Tips for Moms on Protecting Kids from Pornography
Our kids are still learning. We want to teach them and go alongside them as they learn.
My husband is starting a four-year program with our oldest son this month. Discipling and teaching. This program is designed for daily check-ins and constant conversations. They will have lots of opportunities to talk about what’s on the internet and how to handle those things when owning a cell phone. If you are interested in looking into the program we are using, it can be found at The Primal Path.
Put Technology In Its Proper Place
A few months ago, we read the Techwise Family. This book changed a lot of our thinking about technology. It inspired us to focus less on media and video games and more on what is in front of us.
More importantly, we want to focus on who is in front of us.
I feel if we had given our son a cell phone before reading this book, we may have had a harder time making the changes we did in our family this past year.
We took our TV off the wall in our living room and put it downstairs in the family room. Not that TV and technology are bad. We just wanted a screen-free main level to our house.
My husband and I try to keep our cell phones on the counter at home when we aren’t using them and will encourage our son to do the same. It’s so easy to just pick up the phone and start clicking on things and before you know it, you have wasted 20 minutes looking at what your classmate in 2nd grade had for dinner with his grandma last night.
Or maybe it’s Pinterest. You find yourself pinning like there is no tomorrow and feeling frustrated because you haven’t been able to try any of the new recipes you have pinned in the last 3 months.
Or Instagram! Perfect photos of a curated life all the time.
How about YouTube? It’s pretty neat. You can learn “how to” do just about anything. We are watching YouTube as we train our new puppy! Kids and adults can easily spend hours watching YouTube channels.
Again, all of these things are awesome, when put in their proper place.
What Age Should You Give Your Child A Phone?
There are many questions to ask when making a big choice that concerns your kids. Especially cell phones. To give or not to give? But instead of a hard and fast rule regarding age, I think it really depends on your child and your family.
What is your child’s maturity level? What are the needs and circumstances of your family? Is a cell phone actually necessary, or is it just so said child can “fit in?”
Our oldest son is half-way through his 8th grade year and he does not have a cell phone to call his own. He has used our family Tracfone the past couple of months to message with a friend and his cousin. Aside from (fellow Just Homemaker) Jenna’s son, our family does not know of another 8th grader without his/her own cell phone.
My husband and I are at a point that we feel he is ready to have access to his own cell phone. And before we agreed on this decision, we asked ourselves two very important questions.
As I said, there are many things to consider first, but I think it can really boil down to two points:
- Does y(our) child need to have access to his/her own phone to effectively communicate with others?
- Is he/she mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes along with owning a phone?
Our two oldest sons have witnessed classmates getting their own cell phones from 4th grade on up. Every year we have asked ourselves these questions. And the answer has consistently been no for 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and half of 8th grade.
Our kids are usually with other adults with phones, at school, or with coaches who all have phones. They have used those phones when they needed to or we spoke directly to the adult they were with.
As far as being mature and responsible enough to handle a phone, we didn’t see that either until recently. We were looking for respect for our family rules and the ability to trust that we have his best interest in mind.
Please note, this isn’t black and white. What we have decided for our oldest may be different than what we choose for the other two when the time comes. Also, what we have decided for our family may not be what your family decides. But I hope our two questions give you a jumping point from which to start.
You have read what age we decided to give our oldest a cell phone, and some of the concerns we have had along the way. Now it’s time to talk about the cell phone contract we have put in place.
Teen Cell Phone Contract
When you decide that the time is right to give your kid a cell phone, we have a great resource for you! A printable cell phone contract, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
We have been looking at different teen cell phone contracts for years before combining resources to create our own. In order for our son to call our family phone his own, he had to read our contract and initial each section and give us his signature.
Is this to be controlling? No, it’s to give him access to a cell phone in a way that will help keep him safe and allow him to continue to learn about responsibility.
Our contract starts with a letter congratulating our son on being mature enough to have his own cell phone. We talk about how it is a big deal because it really IS.
We want our son to have healthy relationships with those around him in his life. Part of his contract includes him having his phone put away when in a conversation with another person.
The contract mentions the safety parameters put in place to protect him. It states the time the phone will “sleep” on the counter each night and when it can leave the counter each morning.
It addresses apps, social media, bullying, and what to do when those items come up. It also addresses cell phone etiquette, and how important that is in relationships.
It states responsibilities that must be kept such as chores, helping to pay for the phone each month, and much more. If he does not keep his word, the privilege of using the cell phone will be removed. If a piece of the contract is broken, trust is broken.
So what if your child already has a cell phone? Is it too late to present a cell phone contract? Nope! You are the parent and if you feel your child will benefit from these concrete guidelines, go for it!
Your Free Printable Cell Phone Contract
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*This PDF is a compilation of ideas we’ve seen from friends, the Parent Cue resource, and our own requirements.
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When Should I Get My Child a Cell Phone: Final Thoughts
You know your child best! Even though your child may disagree with the choices you make currently, the reward will be worth it in the long run!
Remember, what works for your family is going to look different from what works for our family. The most important thing is that we are teaching our kids the best we can and keeping them safe!
What filters and apps do you have on your kids’ phones that you love? I would love to hear!