What is the Right Age to Allow a Child to Have a Cell Phone?

Today, children are almost born with a clear understanding of the digital age. But when is the right age to provide them with the tools to participate in electronic communication without supervision?

Monday was the first day of middle school for my 11-year-old granddaughter. Anyone who has ever been through the middle school years knows, life’s about to change dramatically for everybody involved. My daughter found that out the minute my granddaughter arrived home.

“I’m the only one in school who doesn’t have a cell phone,” she complained. “Everybody has one. Why can’t I have one?”

My daughter had to remind her that she has an iPad – in fact two. So she is digitally connected, but somewhat more supervised than a cell phone allows. She also let her daughter know that her first cell phone came along with her driver’s license. It was only after there was a possibility that they could break down on the side of the road that we allowed our children to have cell phones. And even then, it was equipped only with emergency minutes so as not to encourage talking on the phone while driving. That was before texting.

But times are different now. So when is the right age to allow a child to have his or her own cell phone? And what restrictions are recommended to ensure safety in a brave, and sometimes dangerous, new digital age?

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