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At what age should kids get their first cell phone?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 20, 2006 3:06 AM PDT

At what age should kids get their first cell phone (and why)?

5 to 7 years
8 to 10 years
11 to 13 years
14 to 16 years
17 to 19 years
When they can pay for it themselves
When they start driving
Kids shouldn't have a cell phone, period
Other (when?)

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When they can pay... But!!!
by wsmontgomery / June 20, 2006 11:28 AM PDT

When thay can pay for it themselves because thay will value it more. Except that once they start driving they should have one for safety reasons. (and for GPS tracking of their driving)

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Cell Phones 4 Kidz
by tagurrit / June 21, 2006 8:57 AM PDT

I am lucky to have Cricket communications company here in Phoenix, Arizona. It's one (small) charge for unlimited local, long distance and text messaging air time. I have had cell phones myself since 1984 and they grew up with them. I ALWAYS gave my cell phone (before they became so cheap and I could afford more than one) to my daughters when they dated and I had to drive and pick them up several times when they bailed on their dates for one reason or another (including attempted date rape). In the end the cost was nothing to the potential harm that could have happened. I still provide phones for my kids (if they want or need to use my phones) and they are all in their twenties (M23,F25,F26) just so I can always (well mostly) reach them when I need to. I've never missed a meal because of the money I've spend on phones over the years and I could stand to lose a few pounds too!

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I did not have phone when I was a teenager
by Akimo / June 21, 2006 8:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Cell Phones 4 Kidz

I know things have changed since still I do not see a reason why kids should be given phones. All this safety talk is pure nonsense to me. If you establish good relation with your children you do not need a lead like this to control them and check where they are, it's all about trust, in the end.

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in agreement
by mbackhus / June 21, 2006 11:24 PM PDT

it is just the case of they have one so must i, when i wrote previously saying the age should be 14-16 i now retract that statement and believe when they earn thier own money by whatever means then they can pay for their own phone it might make them see that it costs hard earned cash to pay for the phone and calls something i believe many teenagers have no idea of

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i pay my own bill
by siguy955 / June 25, 2006 11:11 PM PDT
In reply to: in agreement

Im 18 years old and since i was 16 and wanted a cell phone i payed my own, I agree that it makes us realize how much a phone costs and to take care of it. But before i could afford my own y dad used to pay for ours. Not all teenagers are going to use up all the minutes and go over them and run up a huge phone bill, and if that happens the parents can always make tehm pay instead of warning them over and over. The thing is that the parent needs to make the child take responsibility for what they do, you give them a minute limit and if they go over that they pay, any other extras such as text messaging, they pay...

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(not quite) in agreement
by tjlinko / June 22, 2006 8:03 AM PDT

Look. A phone is a responsiblity - a privledge to a certain extent - so I do think it makes sense to expect kids to pay for their phone usage. When my kids reach the age when they are going out with friends, and certainly when we get to dating age, I'll want them to have one. I may even pay the basic charge, but would expect them to pay for any excessive minutes charges, text msg, downloads, etc. If that's the way they want to spend their money, that's their choice, but my kids are pretty frugal when it comes to their OWN money, so I expect that not to be a problem.

I must respectfully disagree with the comment that the "safety talk is pure nonsense." I don't know how old the poster is (when I was a teenager 20-25 years ago, cell phones didn't exist. But now they do, and if my child is ever in a situation where they need to reach me, for ANY reason, I want them to be able to. And if I ever need to reach them in an emergency, I want to be able to. Just because that benefit didn't exist 25 years ago, doesn't mean we shouldn't utilize it now.

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Agree and disagree, too...
by merchContractor / June 24, 2006 4:35 AM PDT

I can understand a parent's concerns over communications - our number one concern with children these days, whether its one on one in person or from phone to phone, it's all about communicating. I also didn't have a cell phone 'til they came out with them well into my adult years - my teen years outlive most of you adults already discussing this, which shows my age somewhat. My daughter was a teen when the cell phones came out and we got her one and in our plan when she graduated from high school. We then asked her to pay her 1/3 portion of the bill for usage, but sometimes that didn't occur and we threatened to take the phone away if she didn't pay up. So, then she started paying, but I still had to remind her of the due date for the bill at times. We then decided to not renew our plan with her phone and that made her decide to get a phone on her own. That plan worked.
She has since moved out, and on her own now, but she learned a lesson there, too.
I don't think any child under 18 really needs a phone and especially if you parents pay for it and foot the bill - that makes them more aggressive for the things they want and makes them less responsible for the things they have. If you want to know where they are on a constant basis, or only for emergency use, then they only should have a cell phone for that purpose and there are plans out there for that type of limit, and plans for pay-as-you-go as well. Make them pay for it if they want it, hence they have to get a job to pay for the cell phone use and hence, make them more appreciative and responsible.
But then, this is only my opinion.

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receiving a cell phone
by lij2242 / January 20, 2011 9:21 PM PST

I was 9 when I received my first phone, I am now 14 an all my friends and I have a BlackBerry Smartphone. We use it for school and for social needs.

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When they can pay
by cweinc / June 27, 2006 10:06 PM PDT

I agree. Kids dont need cell phones if they are at school. By the time they can pay the monthly fee, they will be old enough to actually need it plus they would use it.

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what age should people be able to use cell phones?
by umra11 / June 20, 2006 11:28 AM PDT

i think anyone under the legal age to drive or anyone that doesn't drive a vehicle should be able to use a cell phone. It's these idiots that drive and use the cell that get my road rage up. Most folks driving and talking on the cell are not able to multitask. I'm all for shooting anyone talking on the cell and driving. They are a hazard to others on the road. I don't care what happens to them, but their inability to focus on driving and talking at the same time is reason enough for them to lose their driving priveledge if not a couple of limbs.........can ya tell i hate folks that drive and use the cell?

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11 to 13
by wresnick / June 20, 2006 11:31 AM PDT

When I got my kids cell phones, it was at age 11. That was the age at which they started doing things without their parents around, including taking a bus by themselves. I told them they could have the phones when they turn 12, but I gave them phones at the beginning of the school year during which they would turn 12. I also told them that they could use the phones to call home/parents, or for emergencies.

I got them pay as you go phones. With such limited usage, the $100 refill card still had about half its value after a year, and I need to add to it each year to keep from running out of minutes. Since the minimum card value is $10, I figure it should cost under $5 per month, since adding time gets the remaining minutes to roll over for another year.

If they want to use it more in the future, and they are willing to pay for their own minutes, then that's fine with me. But I still want them to have phones for safety. In the mean time, they get whatever leftover phone I have around. With GSM, it's real easy.

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I agree
by gamaza / June 20, 2006 5:14 PM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

We let our 12 year old have my old (newer) phone with a Pay As You Go. Her meager allowance must be saved to reload the phone with minutes so she is learning to manage her income. She uses it to call me after school if necessary and any time she needs to contact me, such as folowing an out of town game if I cannot attend. She is not allowed to use it at school for any reason unless she goes to the office and gets permission. So far so good. Since we live in the country her phone is added assurance that we will be able to contact one another should I be late picking her up from school due to a slow flock of sheep on the road or some other hindrance.

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Phones at schools
by wresnick / June 21, 2006 4:25 AM PDT
In reply to: I agree

My kids can't use phones at school because there's a rule against it. But they can carry phones. There used to be a state law against pagers and phones at school. The theory was that they were used only by drug dealers. It may have been true at one time, but not now.

Students at the local high school took it upon themselves to do something about it, and their actions got the state law changed.

People who think that kids are not responsible would be amazed if they opened their eyes. These kids got legislators to pay attention. In another local school, some school reporters broke the case of a person importing sex slaves after the rest of the community failed to put the pieces together. It didn't involve cell phones, but it did involve responsibility.

Kids become responsible when you give them responsibility. Giving them a phone and an allowance is a great way to do it. They learn that they have to deal with limited resources and suffer the consequences of their mistakes. They also learn that they have control of some things, and responsibility brings rewards that they do not have to rely on others for.

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the trouble with phones at school
by horseychick / January 22, 2009 1:41 PM PST
In reply to: Phones at schools

as a teacher cell phones should be banned in schools. the biggest prouble i have with my grade sevens is cell phones. consititally they are texting under the seats during class time. at least twice a day a cell will ring disturbing the class. i proudly survived elemary school, JR. High, high school and part of college with out a cell. i never owned my first cell till i was 24 years old. I don't believe that they are all drug dealers beause they have a cell. being only 12 and 13 who pays for these cell bills? the parents and I can promise you that its not the parents phoning during class time and they are not texting there parents. most of the time they are texting friends who are in other classrooms.

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I agree for communication purposes sake
by Roelito / June 22, 2006 9:02 PM PDT
In reply to: I agree

Technology now a days is not as the same when as it was 30 years ago. Kids now are lucky to have this kind of device avaialble to them at an affordable controlled cost. If cellphones can help a parent to contact a child more efficiently, then by all means.

Now in terms of responsibility and the cost of having cellphones at an early age, then it us up to the parents to educate the primary use of the device.
1. To establish contact with parents
2. To use for emergency purposes
3. To conatact other known and trusted people.

Any other use, other than the stated above would be a violation of "educated guidlines" and will lead to disciplinary action. Thus the learning process has been putinto action.

The challenge is to have a more open and new form of communication with the child and parent. By means of cellphone. I rest my case.

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I agree also
by rob356 / June 20, 2006 9:10 PM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

I think if a kid is going to have a a cell phone it is when you think they are old enough to be out by themselves. Also so they can't rack up a huge bill I think prepaid is a great idea. and some phone companies even have parental control programs where you can see who called your kid and who they called.

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I agree 100%
by Barbara Harkey / June 20, 2006 9:44 PM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

When I hit my teen years (many years agoe) I truly believe that a cell phone would have kept me out of trouble. How? My parents would have been able to get in touch and possibly help me make better decisions.

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11 to 13 is about right
by zclayton2 / June 21, 2006 12:27 AM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

This is when we got our daughter a phone. We got the family plan with unlimited "same service" minutes and told her that she would be responsible for anything over 200 minutes of external calls. She hasn't gone over it yet on that plan but can call us anytime without penalty. A big lesson came before this came during a mission trip with her mom's (old) pay as you go phone when a friend "borrowed" it for a call and then ran out the minutes in one night. She learned then not to let other people use her phone.

She tried downloading a new "free" ringtone about 3 months ago thinking that free meant there was no cost. It was a relatively cheap lesson in what "Free" means in the commercial press. She was quite upset when the tone was delivered by the text message feature which she doesn't use and wasn't answering so the messages kept coming until she mentioned the wierd messages to us and we contacted the company to cease and desist. They did after we pointed out the mention of free on the web advertisement and no charges were billed. Our son who is nine will get his on the next cycle of upgrades when he is more independant of us.

I am always a little bemused by the "not until they're adults and/or responsible" brigade because if they don't learn responsibility and control until they are adults or responsible, how are they going to practice? Yes, responsibility needs practice, how many of us got it exactly right the first time out of the box? If you wait to let them practice that until you have no useful input, who will supply the guidance lessons they missed?

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Scarey world-kids need access.
by hensonmom5 / June 21, 2006 1:46 AM PDT

I have several grandkids. I worry about the ones who are showing independence but are still vulnerable to the sickos who would take advantage of them. Even if the phone had access to a parent or 911 it is far better than trying to travel from point A to B without a guard (parent). I get scared and worried especially about my near 16 year old granddaughter, Miss Independence. I hope I can get her one for her birthday even if it is pay as you go.
If your kids have after school activities and you can't always be there, what greater peace of mind than to have a way to call you or the police? I like the cell phones that have a restrictive amount of numbers that can be called. Children are very generous when it comes to things like cell phones so if there was no restrictions they would let all their friends use it. I wish there was one that looked normal but was programmable to gradually allow the child/teen to gain additional privledges as they show responsibility.
Now that would be cool!

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Interesting Idea
by RobertMusil / June 21, 2006 3:58 AM PDT

Bruce Sterling and other science fiction writers have talked about this. It's possible with the power of existing hardware, within reason. But of course the most customized and therefore desirable results would come from the parent remotely viewing the usage and making those determinations personally.

I really don't think we should view technology as any sort of replacement (not that this was your point). It is just a facillitator.

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Peace of mind is important
by wresnick / June 21, 2006 4:07 AM PDT

Since I made my original post, I started wondering if 11 is early enough. When I was 10 years old, I took the subway to school in Brooklyn. It was almost four decades ago, and times have changed. I would not have felt comfortable sending my kids on that sort of trip when they were 10 years old, but times have changed. If kids that young are on their own, then they can use whatever help they can get.

How have times changed? Back then, we never heard about child abductions or teachers being arrested for molestation. We never heard about kids getting murdered by strangers. But crime statistics show that things are actually a lot safer than they were four decades ago. The crime rate is lower. The murder rate is lower.

It's not that we are being overly cautious or deluding ourselves by thinking that things are much worse now. Even if they are safer, we are now aware of just how much of a risk there was all along. And if the small price of a cell phone means that a child can call home if she misses the school bus, it's worth it. But knowing that there are a dozen people at the bus stop with cell phones is even more important, because
people will not even try some of the things that they got away with back then.

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Another Grandparent's Thoughts
by jody / June 22, 2006 8:26 PM PDT

I think it's very important that children are given cell phones when they start Middle School. Why? Because this is when they generally begin to do many things on their own. Some of my grandchildren in that age bracket have cell phones and use them wisely. I worry about the ones who haven't been given cell phones yet. This IS a scary world! A cell phone is a form of protection for children when parents are absent. I believe, too, that initially they should be given prepaid phones. Parents must explain to them that prepaid means limited usage and that there will be a specific number of minutes per month. Kids today are sharp. They may screw up once or twice when the phone is new to them, but they'll quickly learn that a dead phone is a real drag.

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(NT) Totally agree
by randani / June 21, 2006 12:42 AM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

I have done the same with my son...got him pay as you go and limited usage. It comes in very handy when i am running late to pick him from school or i need him to walk home.

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essential children are contactable and can be in contact
by SHQIPTAR1 / June 27, 2006 2:50 AM PDT
In reply to: (NT) Totally agree

At 11 my son has just started going to the park across the road or over to the beach with a couple of friends. While I trust him, I don't trust strangers, but it's essential he be allowed to 'test his wings' without feeling mum is watching all the time, so I get my peace of mind from knowing he has a mobile/cell phone.
But I don't have the problem of him running up big bills, so I can understand anyone with a child who wants to phone and sms willy-nilly wanting to keep it simple.

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Ages 14-16
by vanoreo / August 28, 2010 7:16 AM PDT
In reply to: 11 to 13

really you dont need a cell phone until you are in high school, if you are in grade school that is just a waste of money, they wont have anything to talk to , kids who are like 11 years old are very immature and would spend all of their time texting smiley faces to each other, and also the only reason they WOULD need them would be to call their parents, and where would they be if there wasnt a phone, really, and if they went to a movie or something alone, without a parent, that is just bad parenting, they arent mature enough to be left alone, (and also im pretty sure it is illegal, and i think it qualifies in abandonment) so they could just use a house phone or an adult's cell phone, so really, when a person is 14 they will go to high school soon, and they will be alone much more often, they would dabble into relationships and dating, so they will go out much more often in these years, also at age 16 they drive, so they might be going to work, or being gone for a long period of time, so they actualy NEED it, when your 11 it is a WANT, not a NEED, so that is just a waste of money

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Prepaid cell phones are handy!
by serlib / June 20, 2006 11:35 AM PDT

Kids should have cell phone as soon as they are allowed to go out by themselves. If you should worry about a high telephone bill, give them at least a prepaid so that you can control the expenses.

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totally agree!
by nestorjs / June 21, 2006 8:01 AM PDT

When kids are less than 10 years or careless about minutes fees, the solution is going prepaid or buy a MetroPCS. I have 2 kids: My girl has 14 years, I gave her a MetroPCS when she was 13, zero surprises and 100% in communication with us (the parents)!, and my boy has 8 years old, I guess it is a little bit too much spending around $100.00 a month in phone bills for them, so I went prepaid. Less minutes but it is about to have my kids in communication with the family, not for being there chatting with everybody spending money in useless calls. I think the most important is to keep in touch with them in case of an emergency, not to give them the oportunity to blow our bank account.

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cell phones
by mom0523 / May 13, 2011 1:06 PM PDT

when my kids were growing up there was a phone on just about every corner. now there isn't any, so yes the kids need a cell phone when they go out.

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cell phones
by mittens / June 20, 2006 11:39 AM PDT

I think cell phones should be treated just like the house phone; if they need supervision to use that one, and there are rules that go with it, the same rules should apply to cell phones. I see kids connected all the time, and I think, when do they THINK? when do they dream? What happens the day the cell phone goes down and they have to figure something out alone, without someone to call?
I dont object to them using one, but I do object to them OWNING one unless they can pay for it themselves, including the bills.

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Just curious
by wresnick / June 21, 2006 4:33 AM PDT
In reply to: cell phones

How may kids do you have who are pre-teens or teens? If you have any, do you have a television?

I agree that kids can waste a lot of time with cell phones, but not with prepaid ones that run out of minutes if they do what you are talking about.

Don't blame the technology. Ultimately, it comes down to two people communicating, and they can do that with or without a phone. They can waste time chatting about nonsense in person, or they can call their friends to work on homework problems. How much they think depends on how much you let them think. That's where we differ in opinion. I feel that if you try to supervise every little activity, including whether a 12 year old can talk to somebody, then the child is learning not to think because she does not have to think.

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