would you give a tween a cell phone?

The past few weeks, I have been hosting events in my community sponsored by At&T. It has sparked some interesting conversations. Mainly, “When should kids get a cell phone?”

I don’t know about you, but my 9-year-old is already eyeing a cell phone. She thinks it would make a fabulous tenth birthday present. At first I was totally against it. And while I don’t think she’ll get one when she is ten, I think 11 (or middle school) is the perfect time.

Contact– As she gets more involved in activities after school and before school and sports and drama rehearsals and whathaveyou, I like the idea that she can contact me when she needs to get picked up or if her practices are running late. She could chat with Daddy when he travels, chat with her Aunties or Grandma. With features like AT&T’s Smart Limits, I can manage purchases, texting, data usage and time-of-day restrictions, block unwanted calls and texts, block calls to 411 directory assistance.

Learning Limits – This is a serious issue with a phone – or even internet access. Kids need to be taught what is appropriate online behavior – what kind of things do you say, what pictures can you post, etc. I feel like if we start early – 11 or 12 – our kids will (hopefully) be more open to our giving them input and sharing what they are up to. If they get a phone at 16, they will be in full “Hands Off Mom” mode and it will be harder to have these conversations.  I love that the Parental Controls are available for their cells as well as our home internet. We can help her learn safety early on.

Safety – If she has a phone, she can call or text me anytime, anywhere. If something is happening she is unsure about or worried about at a friend’s house, she can tell me. She can ask for help or have us come get her. With features like Family Finder, I can know where she is easily and keep track of her without constantly calling.

Responsibility – Having a phone is a huge responsibility. She’ll have to charge it, keep track of it, be safe with it. She’ll have to manage her budgeted texts and allowance for apps and downloads. It’s a great teaching tool. And we will so get the insurance for when she drops it in the pool or something  😉

I think she’ll be ready next year. What age are you thinking about getting phones for your kids?

Disclosure: I am proud to be part of an AT&T Family Safety Ambassador program. This is a compensated position

About Melissa

Melissa is founder of Girlymama and co-founder of the mom fashion blog, All Things Chic. You can also find her designing blogs at Eliza Grace Design and on Twitter as Melissa Angert.


  1. 1
    Stacey says:

    This is a great subject to think about. I taught 4th and 5th grade for a long time so I can tell you that many kids have their own phones. They actually brag about what kind they have and love to flash them around. It is kind of funny to me that they care that much about their phones.

    Having sons who are now 20 and 23, I will tell you that there is much they have to learn about the responsibility of a phone but there is also much they can not control. For example, you mentioned budgeting text messages…they can’t budget what comes in and pictures count against your data plan. That’s just something to think about based on my experience. 🙂

  2. 2
    hchybinski says:

    Our 11 year old got his in June. . .so far so good. We have set up boundaries and rules. He’s tested our resolve – but he’s 11 and that’s his job. =)


  3. 3
    K in Philly says:

    no insight … just glad my two year old is happy with an old non-functioning blackberry as her “phone” 🙂

  4. 4
    Kellyn says:

    I actually JUST got Boo her first phone last week. I was holding off responding to this til then 🙂

    My hubby has been out of work for almost a year, so he has been home for whatever she may need 24/7. BUT now that he is about to start a new job, she needs a way to connect with us before and after school if needed. She has a slider phone, no internet access and we have to approve ANYONE that she wants to put in her phone. Hubs put the “no boys” restriction on, but I don’t see that one lasting as they are her best friends.

    I was strongly against her getting a phone until she was 12, even wrote a post about it a couple years ago. But circumstances change, the world changes and I have to go with the flow. She loves it, I can reach her whenver and she follows the rules (hopefully).