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Mom's Talk Q & A: How Young is Too Young for a Cell Phone?

The Greenfield and Greendale Mom's Councils weigh in on a parenting topic every week, and you're encouraged to join the conversation.

OK, so last week's Mom's Talk Q & A question was heavy, and judging by the number of comments received, .

So, this week we're lightening it up a bit, but still asking a question on a lot of parents' minds. We're talking about cell phone usage among teens. 

But don't let the Patch editors and Mom's Council members do all the "talking." Jump into the conversation below and give us your thoughts on the topic. Agree with what someone said? Let them know you feel the same way. Disagree in a big way? We want to know that as well.

Don't be shy. Tell us what you think.

This week's question...

How young is too young for a child to have a cell phone? And what kind of parameters should be set when that child gets his/her first phone?

David Cotey March 23, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Mom's Council member Pam Sierzchulski emailed this response to this week's question: My criteria for cell phones has evolved over the years. Back when my children were in middle and high school, cell phones were just that. Phones! My oldest daughter received a cell phone when she was a freshman for convenience reasons. I was spending way too much time in parking lots waiting for activity buses! She was limited to calls just to me and her dad for rides and emergencies. My youngest daughter was in sixth grade at the time, and she received a phone (hand-me-down) when she was in seventh grade for the same reasons. When they were in high school, I purchased more sophisticated phones, but I only paid for the phone service. Any added bells and whistles were on their dime. Today, I believe even children of grade-school age would benefit from cell phones depending on circumstances. If you have given up your land line at home, if your child walks to school, or is a "latch key" child, the security of being able to reach them and check on them is important. Adding the texting, Internet, cameras and other features is up to the discretion of the parent and should be well supervised to ensure your child's safety and responsible behavior. I feel if you are paying the bill, your child should never have a phone more sophisticated than yours, and you should be able to monitor it's use at any time.
Viviana Buzo (Editor) March 23, 2011 at 06:35 PM
I agree with Pam completely. I got my first cell phone at 16 and that was because I gotten my first car and the phone was in case of an emergency. I didn't have the most reliable car and if I ever got stranded my parents were only a call away. However, I have come across some teens, in particularly pre-teens that over-text. I had a 14-year-old cousin who thought it was okay to be texting at 1 a.m. and giving her parents a phone bill that resulted in hundreds of dollars. If anything I think parents should restrict and monitor cell phone usage.
Mary Kay Swittel March 23, 2011 at 07:54 PM
My daughter got her cell phone in 6th grade and was restricted to usage. She mainly texts and calls if emergency. I like knowing that I can reach her at anytime if need be.... for safety etc... I check her texting and she knows that I do. She is not allowed to erase her texts until I tell her she can. She is a good kid and I trust her- but feel that monitoring what is coming in and going out is best for her safety. She knows if a text comes in on a number she does not recognize- she is not to open. Her dad & I have taught her the proper ettiquette and are very strict about when she can pull out her phone to text. She does not overuse and will not until she pays her own bill. I also agree with Pam! If phone is ever misused it will be taken away....
speaking frankly March 23, 2011 at 08:38 PM
When my son was in Middle school, pagers were all the rage and he wanted one, so that "I could find him". I had the phone numbers for everyone he hung out with and I always knew where to find him (sort of made him mad that I could do that). We always went throught the 20 questions before he went anywhere, like who are you going with, how are you getting there and back, what time, etc. - he usually gave up asking if he knew that it was someplace he shouldn't be. Anyway, when he wanted a cell phone in High School, the deal was, as longas he got a job and paid for the monthly phone, no problem, same as the car. He had a part-time job and he paid the $30.00 a month for the phone. I can't believe it when I see these 7-8 year olds texting one another (They can barely read at that age), they use it like a toy. Times have changed and you don't see many phone booths around anymore, so if the teen is mobile, I guess it is a must have item.
Lynn March 24, 2011 at 01:19 AM
I really like the responsibility factor in the comments above...while we need to be able to reach our children when we need to, it is so important that we monitor their activity (whether they like it or not!!!) That is what responsible parents do! And we teach etiquette and safe use for the privilege of having the phone!
Viviana Buzo (Editor) March 24, 2011 at 03:27 AM
What age do you think is the right age to stop checking her text messages?
Viviana Buzo (Editor) March 24, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Does anyone think phones are good learning tools, like the iPhone or androids? My 4-year-old niece uses my iPhone and know how to find the games she wants. Scary.
David Cotey March 24, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Hey moms, not to change the subject, but my wife and her friends are pretty fired up about this "study." Check it out and let me know what you think. http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/ready-study-says-moms-job-making-kids-fat-2448394
Melanie O'Brien March 24, 2011 at 02:40 PM
My Twitter friends & I were just discussing this subject. My 10yo keeps asking when can she get a phone. I keep telling her, "when you need one". Right now, she doesn't go anywhere without an adult so I see no need. However, when she does get a phone, vigilance will be necessary. My friends who have teens with phones say it is especially important to monitor text messages. They say they block numbers from people who send inappropriate, or in their words, disgusting messages. Gosh, I'm so not ready to have a teenager!
Cheryl Sanders March 25, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I think having a cell phone should be based on the individual child's maturity level and if they need one. My two boys who are in middle school each have a cell phone. The younger one wanted one when he was in fifth grade, because his older brother had one. However, since he really didn't go anywhere at that age without an adult, we felt there was no need for him to have one. Now that they are a little older and like to hang out with their friends or participate in after-school activities/events, it's more important that they have phones so I can reach them or they can call me if they need to. At this point, they do not have access to the Internet on their phones, as I see no need for them to spend time browsing the web or playing games on their phones. I would rather they do that kind of thing at home on our computer where we can more closely monitor their activities online. I also feel it's important to periodically check their phones for inappropriate usage.
Lynn March 26, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Re: the question, when do you stop checking texts....I believe if your child is under 18 and/or mom and dad are paying the cell phone bill, as responsible parents you should still check text messages randomly. More often for the younger child so you can teach phone safety and etiquette. But as your child gets older, if there are changes in their behavior - school grades - or you just have a feeling something is not right, it is your duty to check the texts and emails to make sure your child is safe and not involved in any situation you need to be aware of.

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