When Should I Give My Kid a Cell Phone? {Guest Post}

Today, Jeremy Lee from Parentzilla is sharing with us about teens and cell phones. We would love to have you comment and share with us your thoughts on this subject.

This is the most frequent question parents ask me about — cell phones. My answer is that I don’t have an answer.

The privilege I enjoy is not to tell you what to do, but to help you understand your options so that you can decide what is best for your own teenager.  No one knows your teenager better than you, and no one is more qualified to lead them than you.

With that said, here are 4 things to consider when deciding the best time to give your teenager their first phone.

  • Giving a phone to your teenager just because they are asking constantly for one communicates clearly to them that they are in control
  • Giving a phone to your teenager because their friends have phones communicates to your teenager that you are willing to follow the lead of other families rather than make your own decisions. This sets up their friends’ parents to be in control.
  • Giving a phone when they reach a certain age might not be the best gauge of their level of responsibility. Consider allowing them to demonstrate that they are ready for a phone by earning money to buy it, carrying an old phone around for a certain amount of time without losing it, or simply by maintaining their grades. This will give them a sense of accomplishment when they receive their phone.
  • Most parents I work with tell me that they gave their teenager a phone when the logistics of their family schedule made it necessary for communication and safety.

The right time for your teenager to have a phone has a lot less to do with their desire to have a phone, what other families are doing, or what age they are. It has a lot more to do with their level of responsibility and your family’s need to communicate in the midst of weekly activities.

Many Parents give a cell phone because of their busy schedules! Here is a short YouTube video on our crazy family calendars.


With a good plan from the beginning you can end cell phone fights in your home before they begin.  You want to make sure you give it at the right time and in the right way.


We have created The Parent’s Guide to Giving the First Cell Phone to help you in the process of giving a Cell Phone to your kid.

We are such fans of 5 minutes for Mom we want to give it to their readers for free ($8 value)  Just follow this link (http://www.parentzilla.com/category/store/)and use the code “5minutesformom” to download for free.



Jeremy Lee encourages parents of teenagers every day at www.parentzilla.com


  1. says

    I am the mother that would not give in to my daughter on the cell phone issue! She begged for a phone from the time she was 11 or 12. By the time she was 13 she was the only kid that we knew that did not have a phone. This did not bother me at all, it did her! Her father and I were on the same page in that she really did not need a phone and as each friend got a phone we got more accessibility to her!
    My statement to her was “Can you pay for it? NO!! Can you LEGALLY sign the contract for it? NO!!!(Need to be 18) Is it life or death you have it? NO!!
    Her dad and I discussed the phone many times and we had decided that for her Grade 8 Graduation gift we would get her a phone. I WOULD sign the contract but she had to sign a contract with me to do tasks around the house to offset the cost and it was primarily for texting. NO DATA!!!! She would have 100 mins/month with unlimited nights, go over and the phone is mine for the next month!
    She has been very good with the phone and she was so surprised when we presented it to her as she was sure I was dead serious about her having to be 18!
    I think these CHILDREN at 8-13 walking around with smartphones/iPhones is NUTS. They are carting around a device worth dang near $1000. I am sorry but I just don’t see how they are responsible enough to have such items in their possession. My daughter has had 2 new phones….she got the first one damp inside from being in the bathroom when she showered and then we got her a new one for Christmas that she really liked and someone knocked it out of her hands at school and cracked the screen! I refused to buy her another one so I said you can go back to your old one we replaced the wet one with or use it with a cracked screen! This is a very responsible girl so it really made me angry that she was so careless to allow these things to occur.

    I would love to hear what others think!

  2. says

    When my kids started junior high and began having sports/drama/robotics activities after school with walk-on coaches who might not necessarily have access to on campus classrooms with phones, they got cell phones. They don’t have smart phones, but they do have text capabilities (now the kids are in junior high, high school, and college, respectively), and they know we expect them to have the phones on when school gets out should we need to get ahold of them for any reason. So far, they have been extraordinarily careful and responsible with their equipment. We have only had one instance of having to confiscate a phone due to texting after bedtime, but the message was received and we haven’t had any issues since.

  3. says

    My rule of thumb was they got cell phones at the point at which they were not under constant parental supervision. At my kid’s middle school they began to go to away games at other schools in 7th grade. These games could be cancelled or changed at a moments notice and as they were with a team and no parent to alert me to their changed plans (one coach is not going to call 18 parents) I got them phones. When they were always in the care of a parent (me or someone else) or a babysitter, I reasoned that there was an adult on hand with a phone and they had no need. In reality, this meant at about age 13.

  4. says

    I have 4 kids. I am a pretty over protective mother. We have bought the simplest trac phone with re-loadable minutes each month. My oldest kids are 9, and twin 8 year olds with a four year old baby:0) They are ONLY aloud to carry the phone when after school bowling or at a birthday party. It is strictly a emergency phone. I do love that I can let them go a little and still be connected.
    I believe when my oldest starts middle school i will let him have this phone….with very few minutes for call or text….and he must leave enough minutes to get calls from mom/dad. By the time they each get to 9th grade they will have a cheapy phone with a set amount of minutes….with the option to upgrade to unlimited for $15 more a month….which they will have to pay. I.phones or droids….they can got those when they have a real job and a real need for them!
    What do we leave for our children to want?? Whats going to happen when one day they leave and all of a sudden no one is giving them everything??? The fact that 8 year olds in my school have I phones….CRAZY!!

  5. says

    i just want to share with you, my daughter is 8 years old, we got her a phone (pink nokia) when she was seven. Teachers at her school never allowed students to have phones or any gadget inside the classroom. My daughter is obidient, never bring her phone at school any more, she only takes it with her when going to friends house in the same building where we live and when there are school outings and activities. I think that with constant reminder, children even at the age of 8, a child can understand what discipline means and can act responsibly. We think that Dubai is a safe place, there never an incident of phone snatching compared to my home country and other countries

  6. Kristin says

    My boys were 15. It was right around the time that they were beginning to drive. They were the last kids at school in their grades to get one. We have strict rules. They aren’t allowed to use them in their rooms, and they’re on the kitchen counter every night at 8 PM. My daughter is 11. Almost all of her friends have a phone. How silly! She’s never anywhere without an adult.

  7. says

    I hate to say this, but I think that giving my daughter a cell phone as soon as she is old enough to have use for one is a great idea. I think that it would be based far less (if at all) on her wanting one, but rather based on the need for peace of mind and the ability to communicate. We are all so used to being able to get in touch with people at the drop of a hat, that doing so with your kids makes sense too.

    Also, Our family doesn’t have a land line anymore, which means my daughter will likely have a phone at an early age. And, I don’t think this needs to be a iPhone, but I will admit that she does already have an iTouch, which she uses as well as an adult. It’s amazing for travel, she can play games, do math problems, take pictures, watch movies, and listen to music.

    I think with proper monitoring and the appropriate controls in place, technology doesn’t have to be a negative for kids.

    Starting with a phone designed specifically for kids, like the Migo or Firefly would be the way I would go. That way, you can stay connected, while keeping the operation simple, in case of an emergency situation.

  8. says

    My kid is still eight and yet she knows how to use a mobile phone. It really amazes me how kids are coping up with technology today. Yes I am a liberated mother,I gave her a mobile phone on her second grade. I did that not because it’s a fad but because I need to be secure that she is doing fine.She can also contact me when she needs something in a jiffy. I can also contact her to let her know that I’ll be 20 minutes late because I have to finish something before I leave work. So it’s a useful tool for her and me.

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