What is the Appropriate Age to Get My Child a Cell Phone?

Dear Acenda, 

The only item on my son’s holiday wish list this year is a cell phone! He’s been asking for his own personal phone for 2 years now, and he just turned 1in October. He keeps complaining that he’s one of the only kids left in his grade without a cell phone and he feels left out. I can’t help but worry that he's still too young, but I can also see how it could teach him responsibility and independence. I don’t want my son to be glued to technology 24/7, and he already spends enough time in front of a screen in his remote learning this year. I’m torn! What’s the appropriate age to get my son a cell phone? 

Hesitant for the Holidays 

Dear Hesitant for the Holidays, 

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer on the exact age to get your child a cell phone, Pew Research Center reports that the average age is between 12 and 13. This means your son falls just under the sweet spot for phone usage. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s an automatic yes. Each child’s maturity level is different. There are a few things you should ask yourself before buying that gift.  

Ask yourself why your son needs a cell phone. It appears he’s attempting to fit in with his peers, but having a personal phone can actually be quite useful for emergency situations. It also may bring you peace of mind if you’re in communication with your son while he’s away. You can regulate a schedule of check-in texts or calls in order for him to keep his phone privilegesThere are also plenty of apps you can download to track your son’s location.  

young boy with cell phone

Assess your son’s maturity level and consider if you believe he’s responsible enough to take care of and appropriately use a cell phone. Be sure that your son understands that having a phone is a privilege and there will be stipulations to his usage. Educate him on the dangers of social media and cyberbullying. Consider setting time limits on how often he can use his phone or certain apps and take it away at night if you’re worried about the technology’s impact on his sleep.  

The choice is yours, but if you’re concerned for your son’s safety with a cell phone, there are certainly ways to implement correct, appropriate usage for his age. If the usage of a cell phone leads to more serious problems, licensed clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help. If you feel that your child or adolescent may need to talk to someone, call 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) to request an appointment.