How do you know when a child is ready for a cell phone? Many parents face this dilemma and there are plenty of pros and cons to that question. Ultimately, there is not one answer that fits all.

Happy texting!

When my daughter reached the age of 12 years old, she was the oldest daughter of a single mother who needed a way to keep in contact throughout the day. She and I played tag team with the younger kids because I was tied up with classes most of the day. It is much easier to send a text in the middle of a college lecture than to answer a phone call. So, as a necessity, she received a cell phone for her 12th birthday.

What's good for Jack is good for Jill

Little did I know that I was setting a precedent with my other children. They all assumed they ought to receive a cell phone at 12-years-old too. Having children with cell phones presents some nice advantages, but there are some drawbacks.

Texting tutor

When my son was given his cell phone for his 12th birthday, I didn't realize what a huge impact it would have on his desire to spell. He hated spelling and saw no good reason to spell until, that is, he wanted to text people and have them understand him. He quickly learned the importance of good spelling and has improved quite a bit in the last year.

Keep in touch

Since that time, I have remarried. We bought my new husband's daughter a cell phone at 10 1/2 years old. Communicating with both her and her sister had been very difficult. We figured if we provided them with a cell phone, we could have a better chance of getting in touch with them more regularly. It has helped some over the past two years, and so it was worth letting a child that young have a cell phone.

Sign on the dotted line

I found a Teenage Cell Phone Contract on a site called Holy Craft. I thought they had some good ideas for making up a contract. Basically, parents can write an outline of what they deem as appropriate cell phone behavior. A contract would be a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • The child is responsible for the cell phone and to keep it in good working condition.

  • What will happen with the phone at bed time? How will it be charged?

  • Are texting or phone calls allowed at the dinner table?

  • The child needs to obey school rules regarding cell phones.

  • Never text while driving or ride with people who do.

  • Don't take inappropriate pictures or use the phone for bullying. Understand that these things are inappropriate and potentially illegal.

  • Alert parents if you receive suspicious calls or texts or being harassed.

  • Parents have the right to go the through the phone at any time.

  • Respond to mom and dad's calls and texts immediately.

  • I understand my cell phone can be take away as a consequence of bad behavior, bad grades, etc.

  • Having a cell phone is a privilege, not a right.

Keep close tabs

Most cell phone carriers have additional features that provide a way for parents to help monitor their children's phones. There is an add-on feature called "Usage Control," and this feature enables parents to control incoming and outgoing calls and texts. It also allows parents to blackout cell phone service for certain hours of the day in which cell phone usage is inappropriate such as during school hours.

Most carriers have a free service that can block all internet and downloading capabilities on certain lines. I take advantage of this on my children's phones. I do not want to get a $300 cell phone bill because my kids found some cool new songs and downloaded them without realizing the fees.

There are plenty of reasons to let children have cell phones and just as many reasons for them not to. It really comes down to what works for your family and your individual situation. If getting your child a cell phone does seem necessary for your situation, be clear about what you expect. It is possible to have children with cell phones and rules - and keep everyone happy.

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