These days, even toddlers have cell phones. Sure, they’re usually the plushy kind that can teach them colors, numbers, and the ABCs. But what happens once a child is old enough to want the kind that makes and receives calls and texts, or lets them download apps and surf the web?

Here are some factors to consider before letting your child go mobile:

Emergencies: A mobile phone can be a terrific convenience when, for instance, kids need to call for a ride, the National Parent Teacher Organization notes. Plus, cell phones can be lifesavers in emergencies.

If you’re hesitant to let your child carry a phone all the time, consider limiting their use to certain situations where being in touch is essential.

Maturity: Only you can gauge whether your child can handle the responsibilities of carrying a mobile phone.

Psychologists generally don’t suggest an ideal age for a first cell phone, according to NBCNews.com, so consider whether your child can ignore the phone at school, avoid becoming text-obsessed, and whether the phone will hurt their face-to-face social skills.

Feature Phone vs. Smartphone: A smartphone “adds another element of risk for your children, who now have access to all kinds of inappropriate content in their pockets,” Marguerite Reardon writes on CNET. So when can your child graduate from a frills-free cell phone to a smartphone?

“If you feel comfortable allowing your child to have open access to the Internet and to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, on your home computer, then you can consider allowing a smartphone,” Reardon notes.

The bill: A couple years back, a California father gave his 13-year-old son a cell phone without a data plan. The first month, the boy racked up almost $22,000 in data fees. (The carrier, Verizon, forgave the fees.)

You may not blink at the extra cost of adding a phone to your wireless plan. But is your child mature enough to stay within your text and data allotment? Consider setting clear usage parameters to avoid expensive surprises.


When do you think a child should have a cell phone, or a smartphone? How will you decide if they’re ready for one?