"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Kids & Cell Phones: yes? no? when? where? how?

As we explore more themes of independence, exploring the neighborhood without parents along and even considering taking TriMet on specific occassions, I have been wondering when is the right time for their own phones?  I am not the only one wondering.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I'm curious about what other parents have to say about kids and cellphone use. My five-year-old announced this morning (on the bus, while watching a fellow commuter text merrily away) that she can't wait to get her own phone.  I'd really like to hear what parents of older kids have decided, and what their experiences have been. When did your kid get a phone? Why did you decide to get your kid a phone, or not? How did you restrict the use of the phone, if at all?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

My 8 year old does not have a phone. A few friends do - they are typically kids that spend time between two homes. To me that make so sense but there are some things to be cautious about.

The first is radiation and cell phones. There are studies that suggest a real danger, especially for children, and an increase in brain tumors. Children's skulls are not as developed so the radiation from a cell phone can affect them more. This is why we still have an old fashion wired phone line.

The other thing to be aware of is texting and the trouble it can get your child into. I was at a meeting at my daughter's school where a law enforcement person spoke about high tech dangers. He told us that if a child under the age of 18 takes a picture of their privates or another person's and sends it to your child's phone, they both can be charged with child porn. If your child erases it immediately they will most like beat the charges, but who wants to live through that. I can think of 3 kids without effort who might send this type of photo to be funny. So, I would disable texting and the sending/receiving of photos on my child's phone when they get one.

When will they get one? I don't know. I think it is one of those things that is different for every child and family depending on circumstance.

My kids have kajeet phones. They are prepaid phones with parental controls. I control who they can call and when. I can turn on or off picture messaging and use the GPS feature to locate them or the phone should it get lost. We LOVE the piece of mind it brings us. The restrictions we set up are age appropriate (for example, my 9 yr olds phone is just for emergencies. Nobody can call or text him except me, dad or grandma. He's 9, he doesn't need to be walking around talking to someone on a cell phone!) Make sure if you get a kajeet for your child to save $$ with one of the promo codes they have out. I found one in our local parent magazine. It was Save 15% on any kajeet with Promo Code: 1115

we recently got my just-turned 11 year old a cell phone (pre-paid with no fancy features) because she will be entering middle school this fall and riding the trimet on her own. she will use the phone only for calling home. my husband and i don't use cell phones ourselves, but i felt more comfortable with her having a line of communication if she needed to reach me (or i needed to check in with her). she had been pressuring us to get her a cell phone since about 3rd grade (many, many of her classmates already had cell phones), but i'm glad we waited. i didn't feel like it was necessary until this point.

I work for the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), and encourage you to check out our safety tips for using cell phones to reduce radiation exposure, especially important for kids!!! http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/8-Safety-Tips

My teens got cell phones pretty late. They were 14 and 12 when they got them. What finally took us over the edge was after school activities whose times and schedules overlapped. I may have needed to touch base with one child while driving another child to some other location. They did not get unlimited text at first. Verizon has an option to shut the phones off at night or during school hours.

I admit it - I parent by text! My eldest got her first cell phone when she when 14 - she's 18 now (and enroute to college on the East Coast!). My middle kid - also 14 when he got his first cell phone. My youngest - who has life threatening allergies and asthma - got his first cell phone when he was 9 - largely due to the fact that we'd moved and he was now walking to and from school and we felt he needed to have a way to communicate if a health issue arose.

We use parental controls - phones are locked down during school hours as well as after bed time and until shortly before school starts. Sometimes a study group meets BEFORE school and texting is typically how these teens coordinate this sort of thing.

We went into all of this with some baseline rules:

1. Your cell phone is for the PARENTS - not for the kid. It's just a nice perk that you get access to it on the fringe.

2. Your parents can and will collect your phone and read your texts, view your photos, and will monitor online who you are communicating with.

3. Your parents have NO PROBLEM whatsoever with completely revoking any phone privileges you might think you have.

I'll be honest - I think texting has really enriched communication between us (as parents) and our kids. It's not at all unusual for our kids to take a moment to text us FIRST whenever they are happy, sad, mad, confused, etc. Frankly, I'm pretty thankful for cell phones!

I really appreciate the thoughts about the various plans/pre-paid phones. I think a phone may not be too distant in the future as our children may be doing many more activities by themselves and taking transit/walking/biking solo.

I am personally a textaholic. I find it really efficient to coordinate pick-up/drop-off/dinner/etc with my husband or friends. I use it to coordinate with our babysitters. Our kids don't have cell phones yet, but I suspect it isn't long yet. I really appreciate Dian's ground rules as well, as we will have to established our rules once the kids have cell phones.

I have some research to do with respect to radiation and the cell phones. Absent cell phones, how might other parents keep in touch with their kids when they are on activities by themselves? When my daughter goes to the neighbor's house, I ask her to call when she is there. I know some libraries and community centers have free phones so they can use that to check in with parents.

Good morning,

I'm a reporter for The Oregonian and am working on a story about kids and cell phones, specifically at what age the demand for a phone begins. I'd love to speak with a few parents grappling with this very issue. I'd love to talk with some of the moms who posted responses here, including Olivia, Dina, Mamipdx and SW mom.

Please reach me at 503-276-7184 or by cell at 503-816-6630.

Thanks so much! -Noelle Crombie, Oregonian staff writer

Yes!! Cell phones are necessary for kids that are going to school. I bought my first year middle schooler a prepaid TracFone. Prepaid phones are great because I control the minutes and their usage. Instead of paying an insane amount of money on minutes that they may or may not use, I only buy the minutes that they NEED. TracFones have cheap minutes and good service as well as great phones. Prepaid phones are the way to go for kids. The moment my kids get home, they put their phones away until the next day. They have them just in case I need to get in contact with them or visa versa.

Kajeet was the perfect solution for us...except in our area the signal strength was so poor (40 miles from NYC) that it rendered the phone into a paperweight. The GPS locator could only locate the phone to 1.6miles of where it was (on our kitchen counter!). So we have gone to AT&T family plan with parental controls, their GPS is no better so we wont be signing up for that. My 11 year old is over the moon.

The comments to this entry are closed.