7 Steps for Parents: Should Your Child Have a Cell Phone?

0423webstory_text10.jpgMorgan Pozgar sends over 4,000 texts a month.
This is her ‘training’ for the LG National Texting Championship.
She competed against thousands of people on April 21, 2007.
She texted the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in 42 seconds.
She won $25,000.
She is 13.

Imagine the day when the Olympics and Physical Education classes are replaced by texting and videogame championships and training, when you might walk into a pre-school class and overhear the teacher asking the kids to make sure their cell phones are turned off. Ok, I am exaggerating just a bit, but you get the idea. Cell phones are a major concern for many parents.

I feel that families can be well prepared to approach the cell phone dilemma with confidence and allow kids to have a modified cell phone starting at a young age (I personally think you can start at 7). As a young person, who might have abused my cell phone privelages a few times, I want to provide some steps for parents to protect their child from the dangers (and abuses) of a cell phone as much as possible:
(If your child already has a phone, see if you can switch plans or make some new ground rules starting at Step 6.)

Step 1: Weigh the Pros and Cons

Cons:

-Potential health risks: brain damage, hearing loss, radiation or tumors
-Protecting children’s privacy from unknown callers, advertisements or hackers.
-Controlling children’s communications with friends, social engagements and who they are in contact with, when they are too young to understand all of the risks.
-The gift that keeps giving, high phone bill costs.

Pros:

-Allows you and them to keep in contact at all times, no matter where they are.
-Easier to make plans, pick-up times and locations so the child does not have to wait in an unsafe place, borrow a strangers phone etc.
-In the case of an emergency, it can be a lifeline, where children always have a method of reaching you if phone lines are down or there is no other phone.
-GPS features can allow you to keep tabs on your child at all times.

Step 2: Talk to Them
-Find out if they want a phone and why. You want them to be on the same page as you, so there are no surprises (and they do not get their hopes up for a blackberry and really get a Disney Phone). This will also help you have an idea of how they plan on using it to get the most cost-effective plan.

-Tell them your concerns about having a cell phone and that you plan on having a number of ground rules and a service that will also have guidelines. (again prepare them)

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Step 3: Research a Service and a Phone

Sprint Service and Phone
*Allows parents to set wireless ‘boundaries’ for the phone to work.
* Controls which contacts can be entered into the phone book.
* Restricts incoming calls to those that are programmed by the parent.
Cost: $79.99; the parental control feature is part of the phone and can be added to your family plan.

Verizon Service and Phone

*”Chaperone Service” parents can restrict numbers and calling times
* “Child Zone Service” allows parents to locate your child’s phone from your phone or computer. You set up the locations such as home or school and receive text messages when the phone leaves those areas. (thank goodness this was not around when I was in High School)
Cost: The Chaperone service must be activated by a Family Share account, which is $9.99 per month. Chaperone with Child Zone feature costs $19.99 a month.

AT&T (Coming soon a service called: “Smart Limits”.)
* Limits for number of texts and instant messages
* Limits dollar amount of downloadable purchases (ringtones, games, etc)
*Limits times of day the phone can be used
*Limits who the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing)
*Limits Internet content access

firefly-image_0422.jpgFireFly Phone $39.99
* Has 5 buttons to store up to 20 numbers, has designated buttons for ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ and ‘emergency’.
* PIN protection allows parents to limit incoming and outgoing calls to numbers stored in the phone book.
*Also has upgrades: GlowPhone $49.99, FlyPhone, $99.99

TicTalk $99, $9.99 a month (AT&T only) also pre-paid cards.
*Kids ages 6 and up and comes with five educational games
*Parents can put the child’s spelling list in to be used in Hangman.
* Parents control incoming/outgoing calls, the times of day to call

Whereifone $80, $20 per month plans
*For ages 6 to 10 built in GPS, fed to you via web or phone access
*Parents can see where the phone has been- get periodic updates.
* A 20-number phone book where parents can restrict calls
* An “SOS” panic button for emergencies.

Step 4: Check Out What Other People are Doing

I hate recommending this, but talking to other parents or your school is a good idea o gauge what other people are doing with their kids in your area.

Step 5: Make a Purchase
I think it is great to buy it with them, so they can get excited and understand that it is a big deal and a big responsibility. You might consider having them pay for part of it or do chores to earn it. (again glad this post was not around when got my first phone)

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Step 6: Set-up the Rules and the Phone

Program in all relevant numbers, put the GPS reminders or limits on the phone and your computer. Make sure YOU know how to work it before handing it over to your kid, one of the major loopholes the teens I know abuse, is that they know their parents couldn’t figure out who they have been calling even if they wanted to, because their parents cannot work the phone. After you have figured it out, hand it over with a very specific set of guidelines and rules, with the consequences laid out clearly (I like written contracts for things like this).

Step 7: Trust Them…closely
Tell them you trust them with this big responsibility and let them try it while keeping tabs.

I hope that this helps you make your decision about getting your child or teen a phone. Whether your child has one already or not, I really think phones can actually help you keep your kid safer with all of the new features that are out there.

Also see my post: Sample Teen Parent Contract on Cell Phone Rules

Dream big, work hard and you will get there,

Vanessa

If you liked this article get more Radical Parenting in our new book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?

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  • Arrhani

    hi my name is Arrhani and i really want ceel phone so badly because there are so many problems going on in my area and i really want my parents to know im old enough and i can handle the responsibility. After i saw this site i had some hope in me to finally ask my parents and before i do i wanted to say this…..
    THANKS.
    and im only wanting one for saftey reasons and not just show off like every girl in my class and school.

  • http://vanessavanpetten.com Vanessa

    Arrhani

    I would write out all of your reasons on a piece of paper and present it to your parents. If you approach them like an adult they will be more likely to give you the responsibility of a phone!

    Vanessa

  • http://whatsit2you.blogspot.com Charlie on PA Tpk

    I am parent of 2 boys, 12 and 6, and we’re only just reaching the point where the oldest will be getting a phone.

    For years he’s wanted one, and the answer was always the same: when it served the purposes of mom and dad, then you he would get one.

    I like the contract you’ve provided, and will use it as a basis for our son.

  • http://www.onteenstoday.com Vanessa

    Charlie

    Thank you, if you have any additions or suggestions on the contract, be sure to post here!

    Thanks
    V

  • marissa

    hi….i have been wanting a cellphone sine i was 11 years old. I am now 13 and turning 14 soon. I have asked them several times they either say flat out no or start getting mad. About everyone has one in my grade and even younger people have one!! it makes me soo mad. My brother got one when he started to drive. but that was 3 years ago and time changes cell phones are far more popular now. I am soo tired of not having one and not being able to text. A lot of people keep telling me its a lot easier to have one and they always are saying gosh why dont u have one!!! Will you help me??

  • http://www.onteenstoday.com Vanessa

    Hi Marissa

    I would sit down and write a letter to your parents for all of the reasons you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT have a cell phone.

    You want to show them you do understand their concerns and how you are going to address them. If they think it is too expensive, offer to do more chores to pay it off. if they are worried you will call people they do not allow, tell them they can check your phone logs.

    Explain to them in writing why you want it and calm their concerns–they will take you much more seriously!

    Vanessa

  • Julia

    I’m only 11 but not having a cell phone is dangerous like at school if you walk home one of the most important thing is to have a cell phone or if you spend the night at a friends and you need to leave then if you dont have a phone whos fault is it you get hurt your parents! Also your kid is going to get beat up if they dont have one! People are mean and if you dont got it sorry its your parents falut! Also parents if you dont want to spend money on their plan THEN CUT BACK THE MINUTES AND TEXT, DUH!!!!

  • http://www.iccellphone.com Avery

    Personally,I think child before 18 should not been given a cell phone.

  • Eva

    I am 11 years old and I want a cell phone, but my parents won’t let me get one. I’ve told them that I have the money, but they change the subject or tell me to forget about it. I’ve also told them that I feel left out since all of my older cousins have one, but once again, they just change the subject. When I ask them why, they tell me that I don’t need one, but I think I do. They are always telling me how mature they think I am, so I don’t get why I can’t have one.Got any advice?

  • http://www.OnTeensToday.com Vanessa Van Petten

    Hi Eva

    Yes I do, if they do not think you need a cell phone and you do, I would make a list of the times you think it would be helpful, even essential to have a cell phone. make a list of all the pros and cons so they can see you also see the downsides to having a phone. This might help them see you as mre mature and you can show them the reasons you need one.

    Vanessa

  • Website Admin

    I never knew there were so many differnt types of cell phones for kids. This information was very informative. My son does not have a cell phone YET. The one thing that sticks in my head that I hear from other parents is buy a calling card, if your child has a regular cell. Less headache for the parents, without a surprise high phone bill.

  • Denely

    i am 11 and i started middle school last year. My mom dosen’t think i should get a cellphone. She says that i will get one when i’m in the 9th grade( I kinda made her mad by asking her again so she moved it up to 10th grade).i think i should be able to get a cellphone becuz a lot of crime is happening and i’m getting older and hanging out with a lot of friends and her and my dad need to know where i am.I want them to get me a Go-phone but everytime i see one and i point to it, she ignores me! Please give me some advice!

  • Brie

    I’m 11 and i’m just starting middle skool. My mom doesn’t think i need a cellphone right now. I want to convince her I need one.She says that when i get older, I will be in a lot of more curiculer activities.:(. I don’t think so. I think I should get a Go-Phone or a cheap new phone from verison wireless or AT&T. My cousin and i are 6 mth. apart(she’s older).She has a cellphone,laptop,Ipod touch, and my uncle said she was getting a car when she’s 14!the reason is.. i don’t understand why i can’t have one but she can! I need advice!

  • Leah

    i have a phone and i think that they are good to have it really serves a good purposes SO EVERY PARENT GET YOUR CHILD A PHONE……….DO U WANT THEM TO GET SHOT,ROBBED,OR DIE?????? WELL I WOULDNT SO GET THEM A PHONE………………

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    hi!

    I would make a list in writing of the pros and cons of having a cell phone, usually parents will respond better if they know you are serious in writing

    Good luck!

    Vanessa

  • Kirsten

    Hey. I am going to be 13 in a couple of weeks. Now that school is out I still want to be around friends and know what is going on. Every time I ask my parents for a phone they either say why…you don’t need one there is no reason or they just say no. I only know 2 people in my whole entire grade without a phone and luckily they are my friends but I have tons of other friends I would like to communicate with through texting. My dad says that he is too cheap to by one for me and that I’m just begging and even though I don’t have one he still considers me spoiled. I wrote 45 reasons to have a cell phone on paper and plan to show my parents tonight…any other tips??

  • Delano Ramirez

    Im going into 9th grade and Im one of the only kids that doesnt have a cell phone. Ive done everything I could to try to convince my mom to get me one but the answer will always be no. I have given them facts about Im old enough, I always have to ask around when Im out to use a phone or it takes my friends an hour to let me borrow their phone. I stay outside a lot and also have baseball games or practices where Im left alone waiting for mom 15 minutes after she was susposed to be there. I have done everything I could to try to convince them I need a cellphone and money is not a problem. It would be so helpful if you could help to try to convince them to get me a phone. Thank You!!!

  • B*r_1=@&N

    ayo my names be brian nd i want to tell all paernts that cell phones are not important so dont by your whinny kid a phone wait untill there 18 and u 2 delano

  • ryan

    i read this whole article disagreing on what u said i think that a person who cares about there child would give them a cellphone

  • Sara

    I’m also 11, and do not have any type of cellphone. My parents refuse to get me one, unless I pay for everything. I’m quite mature, and have told them about all the times a phone would really come in handy. All of my friends have cellphones, and at the elementary school in our city, 80% of the kids there also have phones. People DO make fun of you. It makes me mad that no matter what I say, they still reject the whole idea. What can I do to make them realize that I need one?

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    Be logical with them, prove that you can be trusting and ask THEM what you can do to convince them.

    Good luck!

    Vanessa

  • http://www.radicalparenting.com kiante

    Hi my name is Kiante. im 11 years old and i reaaaallllyyyyyyyyy want a phone . but for 5th grade i didnt do so well . And my Msa scores havent came yet. and school starts in 2 WEEKS ! im gonna be starting middle school . i really want a phone because i feel like i need one. My mom wants to buy me one but the at&t account isnt under her name its under my dads . And he is being stubborn. He told me that if i get advanced/advanced on my msa’s i will get my phone(lg neon). But my thing is i have gotten advanced/advanced since 3rd GRADE ! and i cant get a phone? im very mature i have a good gpa and i feel like a deserve atleast a cellphone . what if something happens? my parents will be worried and wont know wat going on with me ot where i am.=] PLEASEEE WRITE BACK THANKS !

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    Make sure to write all the reasons you do want a cell phone out and write the reasons your parents are afraid to give you a cell pone as well and then tell them why they are not true. In writing will be better.

  • Bo

    Hi Vanessa my son has a LG neon and I was wondering is there any way I can limit the numbers he can dial and receive?

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    oh goodness, sorry I do not know. I would post this on twitter and see if LG responds. They usually do!

    Vanessa

  • john

    hi im in 5th grade and like the only person who does not have a phone. I ask my mom and but they both say no because im not responsible and don’t need one

    please help!!!!!

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    Have you tried writing out a contract of reasons and promises? Or print this post and talk with them about it!

  • Josh

    Hi Venessa!

    I am 11 years old, and 3/4 of the 6th graders at my school have a phone. I am in the 1/4 that DOESN’T have a phone. I really think that if I have a phone, then I will feel much safer, because I can call my mom if there is an emergency, or if I need to be picked up from somewhere. The other night, I was working the school’s concesion stand, and I got done 30 min. early. So I waited outside in the COLD for 30 min. waiting for my mom. Now if I had a phone, I could call her right when I got done, and she would be there in a flash! I didn’t want to ask a stranger because I can’t talk with them. I would also love texting my friends at school.
    PLEASE give me some ideas of how to convince my parents to get me a cell phone!
    p.s.: if you suggest an actual PHONE, my family has Verizon

    THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Vanessa Van Petten

    Write to them, a long list and make a contract to agree to the rules! Parents love that.

  • Amy

    Hi, my name is Amy. I am 16 years old and amazingly enough I do not have a cell phone. I am a very responsible person, and I have a 4.0 GPA. So it’s not like I did something to not deserve it. I go to a performing arts high school an hour and a half away from my house. If there is an emergency at school and I need to talk to my parents there is no way to get a hold of them. Every day I wait for around ten to thirty minutes at the bus stop, that is ten minutes away from my house, for my parents to come pick me up. I do not have a cell phone to tell my parents when the bus breaks down (there have been several instances in the past few years) nor to tell them that I got to the bus stop early. Also I am learning to drive. If and when I get my license I will be driving to work. What if there is an emergency while I am on the road? What if I get in an accident? How can I feel safe at all if I have no way to communicate with my parents. I know of absolutely no people who do not have a cell phone. I don’t want to feel like a mooch and keep asking my friends if I can use theirs. The reason I don’t have one is because “all teenagers can’t leave their phones alone; they always have to be texting or calling people”. So far there has been nothing I can say to combat this.
    I don’t know if there is any advice you can give me to convince my parents, but anything would be appreciated.

  • http://Idon'thaveone magin

    hi, my name is magin and I really want a cell phone. even though I have explained that I would only use it for emergencies the answer is always the same “NO”. They say that if they think I need one they will get it but if they don’t then I’ll have to whate till I get a job, and that will not be for another two to three years. I am twelve turning 13 next month I think I should have got one last year. Do you have any suggestions to maybe get them to think about it?
    If you have any suggestions they would be greatly apreciated.
    thanks for your time magin

  • http://Idon'thaveone rose

    hi, my name is rose and I really want a cell phone. even though I have explained that I would only use it for emergencies the answer is always the same “NO”. They say that if they think I need one they will get it but if they don’t then I’ll have to whate till I get a job, and that will not be for another two to three years. I am twelve turning 13 next month I think I should have got one last year. Do you have any suggestions to maybe get them to think about it?
    If you have any suggestions they would be greatly apreciated.
    thanks for your time rose

  • caroline :)

    Don’t feel bad kids! Im turning 15 on the 25th and I’m a freshman and that might be when I’m getting my phone. I’ve pleaded since 7th grade but my mom’s really against it because she thinks that they’re “unneccesary”. But as Venessa pointed out, they can be extrememly useful at times, even lifesaving! And that, my friends, is your best excuse and is what won my parents over. My mom gave in, and my dad likes the idea because he can stay in touch with me more now that he has a phone, too. (My parents are divorced and I live with my mom).

  • Layla

    I’m a 11 years old and my bday is coming up soon. All I want is a cell phone! Not even that, i want the privlidge to get one. I have the money to get a pay as you go phone. My will not get me one untill I graduate the eighth grade. All my friends have one. I am always texting on my moms phone and battery runs out and she wants to use it. She keeps getting texts from my friends! It annoys her because she texts too, but she wont give in! it would be great for when I walk my dog because I like taking him for long walks when its nice out. I am the only one in my family without one. She will give me no reasons why! Please help!

  • Anonymous

    I’m in my first year of high school.
    I don’t have a cell phone.

    I use my mum’s during weekends to text people when I’m bored.
    I so want one because I’m always out with friends, and it’s hard to arrage pick ups etc.

    I think this may be the year I get one.
    I’ve brought it up,
    it’s always, “If you’re good.”

    It’s been that since the start of this year, previous years, “NO.”

    My stepdad said, “There’s no point or reason why you should have a cellphone.”

    I strongly disagree. 

  • http://Gmail.com Ashley

    Hi I really want a cell phone but I don’t know how to ask them everyone else at school has one but me and everyone asks me what my phone number is and when I say I don’t have one they just stare at me and say ohh . And what if there was an emergency my parents are very understanding but I don’t know what to say to them please help me

  • Pingback: Cell Phone Contract With Your Kids « Noodle On This…

  • hi

    Hey Vanessa!!!
    I am an eleven year old girl. I will be going into middle school and i will need a phone. my parents are ok with it because i might need it, but my sister will not stop bugging me to use the phone!!! My dad says when she is eleven she can get one(like me). Now she is getting a dsi!! I never got a dsi and she is only 8!!! Well plzzz tell me what to do.

  • Christian

    Hi Vanessa.
    Am am in 5th grade and my parents say I do not need a cell phone. When I bring it up, they change the subject. I have been on the all A honor roll since Kindergarten. All 4 quarters. I know that’s pretty insane, but I manage. My mom recently got a new phone, and her old one is just sitting on the counter. I am the oldest, yet they won’t let me have the old phone. It is only $10 a month to put the phone back on the plan, and I am willing to pay for all of it. I would even sell my Xbox 360 if I had to. THAT is dedication. Please respond ASAP!

  • http://benjiyork.com Benji York

    I’ve built a little service that makes the “keep in contact” and “easier to make plans” pros work even better: textmyfamily.com. It lets you send one text message and everyone in your family will get it and when they respond everyone else will see that too. It’s great for “dinner is at 7 tonight, be home at 6:45″ type texts.

  • Maribel

    Wow, so many 11 year olds on here! I personally don’t think a child “needs” a cell until they are driving or working. But those 5-button phones that restrict who they can call seem really nice especially for tweens and younger teens.

  • Chris Caron

    Hi, I’m 19 and don’t have a cell phone! No, that number wasn’t a typo. The problem is that I have a 16 year old sister who also wants a phone more importantly because she doesn’t have her drivers permit yet, but my mom thinks I’m a higher priority because I recently got a drivers permit and use it for emergencies, call for rides etc. But my friends (100% of which all have phones) don’t even know that I have no job, money, phone, or car. and I feel sick of hiding behind their backs due to embarrassment. I tried to negotiate a monthly plan about 4 or 5 years ago and she said I wasn’t responsible enough. I was hurt by that comment and never wanted to bring it up again. Sometimes I hope she’ll finally give me a phone for my 20th birthday!

    Oh yeah, my 14 year old brother wants a phone too:\

  • http://gmail.com Rachel

    Hi everyone! I’m 13 and I just wanted to suggest for kids the service from sprint called Kajeet. (kajeet.com). It’s really cheap and even my parents who have said ‘No’ since i was in Sixth (eighth now) thought it was great and I got a phone for Christmas and paid for every cent each month.

  • Christine

    Hi I am also an eleven year old girl, my birthday is in two months, and my parents refuse to get me a cellphone. I always have good grades, help out around the home, and do my chores without complaining. They say I’m not responsible enough, and they wont tell me why. All of my friends have one, and I mean ALL, and they all tease me about it. I also like going out to town with my friends, but my Mum or Dad always has to tag along, because ‘I have no means of contacting them’. Even though it’s them who wont let me get a cellphone, and it ruins the whole day. I really want one, need one, because I walk home 2+ kilometers after school and recently there’s been a lot of very close calls with kidnapping around the schools area. Unless, of course, they want me to be kidnapped…
    PLEASE ANSWER as I said I often get teased about not having a cellphone. I just want it to stop, (btw they’re only kidding, but it’s still annoying!) Thanks in advance! xx

  • Neil

    Hi I am also 11 and my parents wont get me a phone. I’m very mature and make A’s and B’s in school. Next year I am going into middle school and I am nervous about not having a phone. Also many of my friends have cellphones and I feel left out. I just want a very cheap service from verizon and a feature phone for free but my parents refuse. I also offered to pay about half of the phone bill but they still refuse. Can you please tell me something to make them understand why I need a phone? I do not know what to say.

  • Liz

    Geez I’m 11 and I got an I-phone 4 32gb it’s awesome who the hell needs A “5 press pad thing”

  • Smilecruz2331

    Wow that is a great idea but my Parents are super strict I have tried just about everything and I have told my parents to do all these things and nothing I near a better plan please I desperately want a cellphone :(

  • Julia

    I am 12 and the ONLY GIRL IN MY GRADE WITHOUT A CELL PHONE!!! My parents WILL NOT let me get one!!!!! WHat do i do???? Seriously, everyone has one but me, it was just me and my best friend, so i didnt feel so bad then, but now she got one and i am the ONLY girl is 6th grade without a cell phone. :(