Two Points: Should kids have cell phones?

Recently I had a discussion with two parents on Twitter about whether or not kids should have cell phones.  Tony and Cindy both have excellent reasoning behind their opinions.  They agreed to allow me to post their thoughts today.  Weigh in and tell me what you think.

You can find Tony on Twitter @Tonester5  Tony is against giving kids cell phones.  Here are his thoughts:

Let me start this out by saying, this is my own opinion and no one has to listen. I am against youths being given cell phones by their parents. I believe that any child younger than fifteen should not have a cell phone. Fifteen is when a child really becomes a young adult, not twelve, thirteen, or fourteen. I believe that the responsibility that goes along with a cell phone is much too great for a child. My main points are peer pressure, accountability, and honesty.

Just for a little background, I currently live with a domestic partner. Her name is Alicia, and she is a wonderful lady. We grew up together in the same town and know each others parents pretty well. So, we basically know how each other was raised and the strictness in our childhood. Alicia and her ex-husband have allowed there twelve year old son, Dylan, to have a cell. He is a very good boy, who hardly had a spec of problems with school or wrong crowds before getting a cell. Since acquiring the phone his behaviors have changed and more problems have started to arise from friends he is around.

Point number one and two deal with peer pressure and accountability. Now that Dylan has more availability and capability to chat/text, we see him less around the house. He is always asking to go somewhere with friends we may or may not have met. We check on him and require him to check in with us. There has been a few times he tells us he is one place, we go there, and he is somewhere else. There are also times he does not check in. The excuse is always; I was there but my friends asked me to go over here or I forgot. The latest problem is that he was pushed off the top of a fifteen foot playground slide and broke his right arm. The girl who pushed him is not someone we know and he has never brought this girl around to meet us. She refuses to come to our house now, since the incident occurred.

Point number three has to do with honesty of texts and use. I realize that a cell phone provider can put in place ways to stop photos, keep message records for parental review, limit internet use, and other similar hard stops. How do we, as parents, know if the kids are using a slang or code in certain texts to mean others things? Dylan’s mom and I check his phone regularly, there are some texts that we cannot decipher what the kids are actually saying. We have asked that this type of texting be stopped; from time to time we still see them.

I understand people want their children to have a way to contact them in case of trouble or emergency. I understand the availability of pay phones is very limited. That does not mean you give a “child” a cell phone and feel better about it. You communicate with your child, show them by example how to be a good person, and limit what you allow them to do until they are at an age that can deal with life’s harsh realities. Cell phones give children freedom to be less accountable for there actions and words.

When I was a child there were no cell phones and if there was they cost way too much for a middle income family to afford. There was no GPS, no pagers, and most families only had one vehicle for transportation. Older children were expected to take care of the younger siblings. If you went somewhere you were where said you were. If you needed to check in with mom and dad, you either called from a friend’s house or you went home and checked in to let your parents know what you were doing. I’m not saying that I was an angel, because we all have our moments where we made bad decisions. The consequences of getting caught back then were far worse than they are today. I’m thirty nine, I believe I’m a good person and hope my values are being seen and learned by my children and my partners children. I would not be the person I am and have the value set that I do, if not for my parents requiring more of me, as a child, to be respectful, accountable, and honest in my daily affairs.

Cindy can be found on Twitter @Samlau53  She believes that a cell phone is right for her daughter.  Here is her view:

Recently I had called our wireless provider to get my daughter’s cellphone service cancelled as she had lost her phone last year and we were still paying for it. After much internal debate I decided to change her features but let her retain her service and replace her phone. After meeting with some controversy, I wanted to explain my reasoning.

My daughter is nearly 11 now. When she got her first phone she was 9 and I now realize that was probably too young. My daughter likes to push herself sometimes and will be in three after school activities this year, one will take up two nights, so four nights a week my husband and I need to pick her up after school. There has already been an occasion this year when she could have been picked up earlier but was too shy to ask to use the school phone and instead had to sit with her advisor for an extra half hour.

Also our street makes a circle and she likes to ride her bike around the block. She has my coordination, lord help her, and if she would wreck on the backside of the block, we wouldn’t know as she has been taught not to approach a home unless she knows who lives there, unless an emergency. A few years ago she was rollerblading and had fallen in the street. A woman my daughter didn’t know stopped to make sure she was okay and offered to give her a ride home. Thankfully my daughter declined and told us later but we had no idea until later. Had she had a phone then she could have said ‘thank you but my parents will be here in a second’. She wasn’t seriously hurt thank goodness just bumps and bruises.

Lastly my most valid reason, at least to me. My daughter doesn’t look 10, poor thing developed a little faster than most kids her age. While we know and trust all of her friends’ parents, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I don’t want her being stared at like she’s a Thanksgiving turkey by someone’s father or brother and she have to try to come up with a valid excuse to use their phone to call me. She’s shy anyway and wouldn’t be able to lie to them at least halfway convincingly, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing under different circumstances.

With all that being said I think I have brought my daughter up to be responsible enough to use good judgement but there are circumstances beyond the usual ‘but mom everyone has one’ for a young girl to have a cellphone.

What do you think?  What choice would you make for your children?

9 thoughts on “Two Points: Should kids have cell phones?

  1. My 7 year old doesn't have a handy, but her best friend does and I understand why. She is often dropped for classes in places that don't allow parking (or at least not with a kilometer). It's cold out there. If there is any problem, if the teacher doesn't show, if she doesn't feel well, she needs to be able to call her mom. That's a function, though, of being here in a large city. My child goes to one class with her friend and I wouldn't let her go to that class alone for exactly the reason that I would not be comfortable either dropping her alone or being able to pick her up without the police ticketing me. But all other activities I hand deliver my child too and I don't think we will visit the cell phone issue until 12+. At which point I feel very confident that I will be able to control her interactions through allowing only calls to and from specific individuals that I input into programming. I would not allow uncontrolled use just as I would never allow uncontrolled computer use.


  2. I have 3 kids with kajeet phones. kajeet offers free parental controls that can be set for each individual child. My youngest has the basic plan ($4.99)which enables him to contact me in case of emergency. I've set the parental controls up so that the only incoming and outgoing calls to his phone are 911, myself, dad or grandma. He is 9 and doesn't need to be walking around talking on a cell phone. But $4.99 is a super cheap piece of mind knowing that in case of emergency he can contact me! (Think Columbine) My 14 yr old has an unlimited text plan ($14.99) and he has a lot more freedom but I've turned off picture messaging because he was receiving inappropriate pictures from schoolmates. Problem solved. I highly recommend kajeet for families. Make sure you use one of kajeet's promo codes if you decide to buy. (I never buy anything online without looking for a coupon code!) Here's one for 15% off… 1115


  3. My children are both young (2 and 5) but my current plan is to not have them have their own phones until they can pay for their own plan.In the interim, if they're out somewhere (say with friends at a mall or something) they will be allowed to borrow my cell phone, knowing that it's for emergencies and for people to reach them, AND that I'm tech savvy enough to know EVERYTHING that they try to do on my phone.


  4. My son was 12 when he first got a cell phone. He wanted one, so we decided to go with a pre paid so he could show us if he would be responsible or not. He bought the phone and paid for each month. We checked his phone, we know his friends (we live in a small town so if we didn't, we probably knew someone who did) and he showed us we could trust him and he could be responsible for his phone. We recently decided to put him on our plan, but the same things still apply. I think every kid is different and more mature than others, and I think you have to give your kids some trust, but don't be naive either.


  5. I have to agree with children not having cell phones, until they are old enough to get a job and pay for them. My daughter is 8 and has asked numerous times, even has a few friends with Facebooks, to which I am completely against. Kids need to be kids, and while I've been called an overprotective mom, my kids are always near me. If outside, they are within shouting distance, if at a friend's house, I make sure there is a phone number I can reach them at and make sure they know my cell.


  6. My kids were given cell phones when they went to high school because they began to participate in evening activities and I never wanted them to be caught somewhere without a way to reach me. Pay phones are not everywhere like they used to be so I felt as if they needed it.However, when they came home they put their cell phones on the kitchen counter for the night. They weren't allowed to take them in their rooms. When they left the next day, they picked them up and took them again.It might not be right for everyone, but it worked beautifully for us.


  7. I don't believe you can generalize an age where having a cell is appropriate. It is all based on the child's maturity level. My 8 year old could handle it now, but my 14 year old would struggle with it. We always base it on where they are at developmentally.


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