Cell Phones For Kids. How Young Can They Be?

One. This is how old our kids were when they began to mimic our behaviour of talking on the phone. Sure it was a banana or a bit of cardboard or a toy car, but it was held up to their ear just like a phone would be.

Two. Our kids were this old when they got their first toy mobile phone. Pushing the buttons made sounds like you might have heard from a mid 90s phone. But who cares because it made sounds.

Three. It was about this time that they both learned how to pinch-zoom and swipe through photo galleries. And maybe even take a picture or two using Mom’s phone.

Four. This is the age they each got a real cell phone. It was an old discard phone from an expired plan and the Sim card no longer works. But wifi does and so does the camera. It’s a toy mostly but it gets them used to the responsibility of a real cell phone and the ground rules that come with it. Plus the pictures that are taken are a pretty cool window into the mind of a four year old.

Five and Six. Nothing new really except the limits of screen time are pushed and the desire to communicate on sms, whatsapp, Skype, etc grew. We let them talk to family only and only under parent supervision. Strangely, some of their friends already have their own cell phones with data plans! and unrestricted use of Youtube. Who are these parents??

Seven. Grade 2. A growing desire to venture beyond the fence and hang out with friends.

Eight. “When can I have my own phone?” “When you’ve proven you’re responsible enough to have one.” “How can I do that if i don’t have my own phone?” …… insert silence for the brilliant logic …. “Because I said so.” Old enough to go to their friend’s back yards and play, to cross the street, and to “be home by 5.”. And they do.

Nine. Grade 4. More questions about when. And they have both saved up birthday money so they could buy at least a cheap tablet. “You’re still not responsible enough.” This is proven when they have to be asked three times to get off the laptop or the Nintendo DS.

Ten. We’re getting close. Responsibility with electronics is improving, stopping when they are asked to stop is improving. Maybe next year.


First, let me get one thing out of the way right away. Any cell phone that my kids have that I’m paying for will have real time gps tracking turned on. That will be the condition of having a cell phone. I use an android app called totalgps that provides real time mapping and makes excellent use of the battery. I understand there are some ethical and privacy concerns about this, but thats to bad. It’s my family, that’s just how it will be. In today’s crazy world I’d rather be a little over cautious than have the panic when you can’t find your kid.

There are a number of other things I think about when considering the right age to get a child their first real cell phone.

Will the phone itself be treated with respect and can we expect it will last. Phones aren’t cheap and I don’t want to buy a new one every 4 months.

Is there a sufficient level of understanding about the harm that strangers can cause on the Web?

Do they really clearly understand that once you put something on the web, you can NEVER get it back?

Is there a sufficient understanding of the things and people you should and should not take pictures of, and who you shouldn’t share pictures or video with?

Is there an understanding of the acceptable use of a cell phone… Where and when it shouldn’t be used?

When I originally wrote this my oldest was 6 years old. At the time I figured in a couple of years, around 8 or 9 they would be old enough. 4 years later and they’re still a while from getting their own phones…

Maybe when they’re 22.

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