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Young child on a cell phone

At What Age Should a Child Get a Cell Phone?

Once upon a time, kids didn't have Snapchat, Instagram or text messaging. They didn’t have the freedom to call anyone at any time. In the past, a strange device with a big curly wire was attached to our wall, and we used that to communicate. Buttons were pressed to dial a number, and it rang on another device attached to a friend's wall. The phone was typically answered by a parent, who asked who was calling before handing it off to their child.

Fast forward to present day. My 10-year-old daughter wants a phone. Not the kind that attaches to the wall, but the ‘smart’ kind that attaches to back pockets and palms of the hand. My answer has always been a solid, "No way, Jose." It's not because I don't want her to chat and giggle with friends, it’s because of all the other stuff that comes along with a smart phone that I'm less than thrilled about. While cell phones provide many perks and conveniences, they also come with endless exposure to images, information, and enticing games that are a breeding ground for predators.

A few months ago, Sophia was invited to a sleepover. Ryan and I talked to her about what to do in an emergency. We told her that if she felt unsafe, no matter what time it was, she should call us and we'd come get her. As Ryan and I dropped her off, a light turned on in my head. It was like the glow from E.T.'s finger when he wanted to phone home. The parents of Sophia's friend didn't have one of those archaic devices attached to the wall – they used cell phones. My mind went wild. What if Sophia needed us and couldn't access the parent's cell phone because it was in their pocket or on a charger somewhere out of sight? My eyes were suddenly opened to why giving a child a cell phone might be useful.

So, did we get her a phone? No, we haven’t. We still feel she isn't mature enough to handle the responsibility and liberties that come along with having a smart phone. We did, however, find a solution to our dilemma. We gave Sophia my old cell phone that no longer has service. She can play games and watch shows I've downloaded, but with the browser disabled. We added a messaging app that has parental controls. For the next sleepover, we will get the Wi-Fi information from the parent, so Sophia can phone home if she needs us.

Additional Resources for Parents

Children and Screen Use

Create a Media Plan that Works for You 

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About Adrianna and Ryan Walden

About Adrianna and Ryan  Walden Ryan and Adrianna Walden have been married for 14 years. The two met when she was working for an arena football team in Norfolk where he was playing football. Ryan is a service coordinator with the Chesapeake Early Intervention Program and Adrianna is a Licensing Specialist for Children's Programs. Both have enjoyed teaching CHKD’s "Happiest Baby" class together for the past eight years. Together they have one daughter, who despite early health issues, is now a thriving and happy school-age child. The Walden's also lead a weekly community group through their church for married couples and their children.