When I was a teenager, my mother advised me to place a dime in the toe of my stockings in case I needed to place an emergency call home.

The fact that a phone call home on a public pay phone was only a dime should give you a clue as to which teenaged decade I belonged to.

But let’s just say that disco was in and I was way out.

I followed my mother’s advice and did indeed carry a dime in the reinforced toe of my pantyhose.  Although thankfully, I never had to ruin a perfectly good pair of Leggs to retrieve it.

Later when the price of public phone calls calls skyrocketed to two dimes and a nickel, I pursued comfort and got myself a long-distance MCI calling card.  Which I hid in my bra.

It was virtually undetectable.  Which will give you an idea of the size of my youthful chest.  Or lack thereof.

When I could finally afford to rent my own pretty pink princess phone using hard earned baby sitting income, I at last attained some semblance of a private phone conversation in the sanctity of my teenaged bedroom.

While lying on my yellow fur bedspread.  Under the ambiance of my blacklight.

But I certainly never had my own phone number.  A totally groovy bedroom, yes.  But my own private phone.  No.

Emme came home from church on Sunday talking about how all the girls in her Sunday School class had cell phones and were texting during class.

Knowing my daughter well, and after doing a little interrogating, I discovered that “all” was more like “two.”

These are 4th and 5th grade girls with their own cell phones.  I’ve already established how hopelessly out of date I remain, but I can’t understand why 9 and 10 year old kids have cell phones.

Especially in a world where “sexting” is not uncommon place.  My head nearly exploded when I learned what “sexting” was and how young the kids were who were getting caught.

If you’ve ever been an adolescent, then you know how kids can do really stupid things with absolutely no regard for the consequences.

I know, because I was one of those really stupid kids.

A cell phone in my prepubescent hands would have been very dangerous indeed.

So I wanted to come to you all to get your opinion.  At what age is it appropriate for a kid to have a cell phone, and under what circumstances?

And btw, Emme has started campaigning for a cell phone, for, you know, the games.

The answer we gave her included something about pigs and flying.  Or when she has a job and another address.


50 Responses to Pre-Texting

  • Here’s some dutch input, which I’m sure is totally relevant to your american situation…..
    my kids both got a cell phone when they went to junior high/middle school. They were 12. And they got it because they were now biking or travelling a longer distance to their new schools, and I wanted them to be able to reach me in case of emergency.

  • Different end of the world, same 9yos. 😛 Here in Singapore, our law states that teens below 18 cannot enter into a legally binding contract, so only if you’re 18 and above are you allowed to sign up for your own mobile account. Sure, they’ve got “student plans” and what not, but at the end of the day, it rides on a parent’s main plan… soooooooo, I told my 9yo and 8yo that they day they are allowed to sign THEIR name on the dotted line, they can have their own phone… paid for with their own money… and that includes paying for the plan and any other charges they chalk up. My reasoning is that as long as I have to sign on the dotted line for them, then it’s MY phone…. not theirs… and they are asking for THEIR own phone. 😛

    Meanwhile, where necessary, we have a no-frills black and grey screened hugely pixelated phone that they can use with a prepaid card when I think it’s necessary for me to contact them while they are at any activity. Which has yet to happen. But I foresee that day will come…. too soon. 😛

    So that’s the way the star twinkles in the Twinkle Household.

  • It was 9th grade for my girls when they got their phone- we added a line to our plan. They got their phones because they were playing sports and would be home at different times when traveling to away games and I have to pick them up at school. I have a toddler at home and could not attend the away games with them.
    As for the sexting and just the mean girl type junk that goes on in our society, I do random phone checks on their phones to hold them accountable. 🙂 As I tell them, the cell phone is a privledge not a right and I can take it away at any time. And yes, they hate it.

  • We got ours sons tracfones when they were between 14 and 15-If your kids are involved in sports, church activities, etc, it’s nice for them to be able to reach you. They worked for years. Last year we got a family plan with cell phones with cell phones and unlimited texting-Both sons loved the gift. Of course, they’re much older than your children.

  • When they start driving. That’s a must!

  • I’m thinking when they have a job that can pay for a cell phone is appropriate…all kidding aside…I would say when she starts to go places without you or a responsible adult.

  • I would say about half of my 11 year old daughter’s friends have them. The only times I wish she had one were when she was at sporting practice that I wasn’t staying for and weather was iffy and was worried they would end practice early. (We live quite far from the school.) I’ve loaned her mine if I was with hubby so she could call me if need be.

    We’re thinking about 8th or 9th grade if activities really call for it, but only with very specific guidelines and I will not hesitate to check calls & texts to make sure nothing inappropriate is going on!

  • None of my four have phones yet. My oldest takes my phone with him when he goes out and about by himself. Thusfar this has not created an issue, as I’m always home when he’s out.

    You know, neither of my older boys have even asked for a phone yet.

  • I’m so with you on this one!! I can’t give you an age I think is appropriate because we’ve always said “We’d cross that bridge when we get to it.” Our oldest is almost 10 and we have gotten nowhere near the bridge because a cell phone sure ain’t happening anything in the next few years anyway! I used to teach public high school, and I can only imagine what a nightmare all of these teens with cellphones are in the classroom. And the sexting? Don’t get me started.

  • I am with you on this. My daughter is 10 and was trying to convince me that all her friends had one too. However since she does not hang with anyone whose parents I don’t know well I knew better. The one friend she was actually talking about has use of a family cell phone only while she is at dance practice which ends at different times. lol In any case of course Krista is petitioning. I told her she has to be able to hold a job and pay for her own cell, which gives me till at least 16, however I told her until she is 18 even if she pays for it, the phone will be monitored by me and hubby and will have strict rules. Mainly because I also told her hubby or I have to be on her cell acct as a co signer. I may not be popular with her for awhile but I am going for safety and if that means I fail the popularity contest then so be it. 🙂

  • I don’t remember the age exactly, but it was when they were in jr high and walking a longer distance to and from school, and I was working. At first they were only allowed to use it to call me. Now they are 17 and 20. We have a family plan and I can see all the numbers that come in and go out–happily, they are not abusing the privelege. Also–we really stress not talking on the phone and driving at the same time.

  • My 9year old would love a phone, but she’s only in 3rd grade. Around here, middle school seems to be the usual age to look into cell phones. I have thought about adding a line to my phone, and it becomes a “family” phone, given to whomever needs it at the time. Sort of like the family car–doesn’t belong to the kid, but the parent can give access when needed. Vicky Courtney of virtue alert fame has some good ideas, too, on how to monitor the usage. Good luck!

  • I think it is a personal issue depending on what your kids are involved with. For me I don’t think we will allow it anytime soon. My kids are 9 and 6. We always said driving age but I see the point with sporting events and church activities that you as a parent are not attending.

  • Your readers have great comments! I was late picking my nine year old from dance one time and it really stressed me out. I have seriously been considering getting her a cell phone, but this post changed my mind. I love the people who said their kids should pay for it. I really didn’t even think of that. She’s very responsible, but what you said about consequences is so true! She really should wait a few more years.

    On a totally unrelated note- my hubby got a big lecture in the car yesterday on the way home from church. He actually took his cell phone out during the sermon and started texting! Am I allowed to take his away?

  • I have a niece who got one at age 9 from Santa. (cough, cough, hack, puke.)

    My son’e eyes lit up, and I gave him a big old assurance that Santa would have to cover the monthly phone bill too, and I doubted he wanted that.

    I say high school, but I know that is archaic.
    If I knew my child was texting in SS, I would take the phone away for a month. I think that is disrespectful to the teacher and church. That said, I saw an aquaintance of mine texting during the service on the second row of our church. Her daughter has been known to text in SS. So, apple, hello tree.

  • My parents didn’t let me get a phone until just a couple of months ago. (I’m 17) The reason they got it was because of church activities and sports events. They were also very clear that though I am the main user of the phone, if one of my younger siblings is going to a sleepover or somewhere else without them, I have to give them the phone. And I have to pay for the texting if I want it. =O

  • We’re of the opinion that if the kids are able to pay for it, they can have it. We have a cell and let the older one take it with him when he’s doing things like walking the neighborhood selling boy scout popcorn or taking his brother to the park. He’s nine. 🙂 His two cousins ages nine and eleven both have cell phones of their own. My son hasn’t even asked for one.

  • I think each situation is different and since my two are 6 and 3, hopefully I have a few years to really decide. I think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to get your child one of those Trac phones that you pay for ahead of time and then when the minutes are gone, it’s done. At least your child would have one for emergencies. Thinking back on my school days (which BTW the pay-phones were 25 cents) I can say with 100% certainty that a cell phone in my hands would have been a very bad thing. Thankfully, when me and my girlfriends made prank calls, CALLER ID had not been heard of and we could prank to our heart’s content. That’s not so easy in this day and age, so hopefully I would have more sense.

    I know quite a few kids at our church in Middle School who have cell phones.

    It seems kids are growing up faster and faster. My 3 year old can operate my iPhone with little problem except for the ‘reading’ part. So, I think its safe to assume, our boys will want a phone before high school. I would either purchase a phone without texting OR make it very clear that the phone was my property and subject to review whenever I deemed it necessary (which knowing my nosey tendancies would be everyday.)

  • We just got our thirteen year old a cell phone, and I would have gotten her one earlier, had she requested it.

    Texting is IN with teens. You remember how badly you wanted your pink Princess phone and your own phone line? Well, in this day and age, cell phones and texting is the new pink Princess phone.

    Texting allows my daughter to not be left out in her group of friends. It is certainly handy when she goes out and about and I can reach her and not worry.

    One big plus that I hadn’t thought of, but other parents alerted me to, was the privacy texting provides….one girl texted her mom that she got her period and it leaked and she needed new jeans. Who would want to make THAT phone CALL in front of everyone, or in front of the school secretary?? Another girl texted that she was uncomfortable at a party and to please wait five minutes and then call the party house and say she had to come home. This got the girl out of a sticky situation easily, and without other kids mocking her. Another had been to a sleepover and the friend wanted her to stay another night, but she didn’t want to but didn’t want to hurt her friends’ feelings. She texted her mom to say ‘ no’ when she called with that question.

    I’m sure many are thinking kids should learn how to handle these situations rather than ‘escape’ them, but I think there is enough pressure on teens as it is. A cell phone gives both the teen and the parent peace of mind, IMO.

    Sexting and inappropriateness? Sure, it’s around….same as on the internet, and how many of you give your teens ZERO access to the internet? I know my daughter and I know she’s responsible. She knows the rules and I do check her messages regularly. Any funny business and she’ll lose it.

    So for us, the benefits of a cell phone far outweigh the risks. I also don’t agree with making them pay for it….my daughter doesn’t get an allowance….her cell was $90 and I pay $10 per month for unlimited texting. Calls are 25 cents a minute but she NEVER MAKES OR RECEIVES calls, so it’s no big deal. So after the initial output of $90 I’m only paying $10 a month, which is cheaper than what an allowance would be!

  • The rule in our house is no cell phone until they have their driver’s license, no if-ands-or-buts!!
    It has worked beautifully. If my daughter is going out with friends to the movies I will give her my phone, or she usually just borrows one of the theirs to call me.

  • We have had many discussions on this same subject in our household. My 9 year old asked for a phone and my first response was when he could afford to pay for it he could get it. But after much thinking and drinking and thinking some more. Hubs and I decided that Jr. High age would be OK. 11-12yrs old. He might possibly be involved in sports or other after school activities and he would need to coorindate with us a pick time and place and so forth. But his phone would not have txting or picture capabilities. He would also not be allowed to keep his phone in his room at night, it would be kept in our room. AND there would be spot checking of his phone. I love technology but truth be told, IT SCARES THE HECK OUT ME!! Good luck!!!

  • My son got a cell phone whenhe was 14 and he was FAR behind in the realm of “coolness”. Nevertheless, that is when I felt it would be beneficial for him to have one. He didn’t have texting till he was 16 or 17, can’t remember which, but he had to pay for the additional costs of it. Now (at 19) that’s about all he does with the phone.
    He still pays for that portion of the phone bill which is about $30 a month. Pretty good deal in my opinion!! Since when I was a teen I had to pay for my own phone and phone line if I wanted a private conversation!

  • We got an “extra” phone on our account for my 2 older boys to share…they’re 10 and 12 and only use it when they have to at after school events or practice late. We have very strict rules…they can only call and accept calls from people programmed into their phones and no texting unless it’s in response to something from Mom or Dad.

  • I’m from even an older generation than you (maybe about 7 years older) and I am strongly opposed to children having cell phones. I have two nephews who are 10 and 9 who have phones and, why? Mine got cell phones when they left for college. For obvious reasons, we wanted to communicate with them. If my daughter went somewhere alone or late at night BEFORE then I loaned her my phone. There is too much stuff out there for them to see on cell phones that they really don’t have to see at that young age. It’s a status symbol for them and so many parents living vicariously through their kids want them to “have what they want” and “be like their friends”. I just think its a bad thing. I know you can argue that it’s safer, but really, how often is a child that’s under 16 or 18 left alone, by a caring parent, in a dangerous situation? I just think its kinda of a sad state of affairs.

  • and I’ll tell you something else about cell phones and teenage drivers. They WILL text and drive. They are too immature to resist that easiest of temptations. Heck, lets face it: I’m way mature and I am tempted to do it!

  • My husband and I have cell phones, and our oldest daughter got her own phone at 18 (last May). We bought her a nifty phone for her birthday and she pays the monthly fees. We also have a “house phone”, an extra cell phone that one of the younger kids can take when it would be helpful to me or their dad for them to have one. Otherwise, the “house phone” is connected to the charger in the master closet.

  • Our house rule is that you can have a cell phone when you can pay for it. End of discussion. This meant 11th grade for our daughter (she had been working for about 6 months and had proved she could handle work and school). We signed a contract for her but she’s responsible for all costs. For our son, it meant grade 9. He bought himself a pay as you go phone (he’s had a paper route for a few years now), and pays for topping up his minutes on his own. The icing on the cake with this is both of the kids quickly learned to monitor their own usage. Our daughter’s first bill was huge but after that, she’s been careful with her texts, etc, and doesn’t go over her minutes/texts on her plan.

    We also have the rule that even though the phones belong to them, as their parents we have the right to take them away for inappropriate usage or behaviour, plus, we have the right to check them at any time. We’ve always told them we’ll respect their privacy unless we’re concerned about alcohol/drug use/illegal/immoral activity and then all bets are off. We have never felt the need to check (knock on wood!) but have always drawn the line in the sand so they know exactly what will happen if they go off the rails.

  • I don’t know what ” sexting ” is, ( don’t tell me – I have a feeling I don’t want to know ) but I feel your pain about young children wanting cell phones. We got our oldest son a cell phone at age 15. He had just started 9th grade. So now our family rule is no cell phones until 15 yrs. . Of course my 12 year old daughter is just dying to get one and has been campaigning for two years now because all of her friends have one. And she is right, they all do except her. Then about six months ago a friend of hers who happens to be nine years old got a really nice cell phone. I had told her that she would have to wait until she’s 15 because her brother had to wait that long and because 11 and 12 year olds are too young for cell phones. Now that the younger ones are getting them too she really thinks she ” needs ” one. I’m standing by my guns : 15 yrs. old is soon enough for a cell phone. At 15 they start having more of a social life away from home and even though they don’t need them then, they are a convienience. But certainly not a nesessity even then.

  • For my own peace of mind, my older kids (now 7th and 6th grade), each got a cell phone once they were in 4th grade and walking home from school. No texting plans, mind you, but their own cells. They cost me $5 each per month. We’ve yet to have any problems with them having them.

  • Both of my daughters got their own cell phones when they entered the 7th grade. This was the year they went to the youth group at church and began sports in school also. While practice at school would go late they would call for me to pick them up. With the youth group they would call for me to come pick them up from church activities so that I would not have to sit and wait endless amount of time in the parking lot for them to return from varying outings with the youth group. My girls are now 21 and 17.

  • My boys (a sophmore and a senior) shared a cell phone that they took with them if they were out when they were in middle school. When the oldest went to high school and they were going separate ways to separate activities we got them each their own. Which was about 8th and 10th grade, I think.

    I get very annoyed at the amount of texting they do, but on the other hand they text ME frequently too … so it’s a trade out. And an immense blessing to be about to be constantly in touch with them when we’re apart. For peace of mind and well as scheduling pick ups, etc. And my oldest lets me know when he’s arrived somewhere when he has the car, and when he leaves to return home.

    As a mom of teens, I can’t imagine life without cell phones so I foot a BIG monthly bill for 3 phones with unlimited texting. And the unlimited texting is for ME too. But we do not have internet access on our plan, and I pay an additional $10 a month for “Smart Limits” through our AT&T plan. Texting can be limited or turned off except for predetermined numbers. So … if they choose to be disrespectful or not do chores? Texting gone for a day except for messages to me, their dad and each other. Work great, ’cause they don’t want to lose their texting privileges.

    But 10-year olds? Good luck with that!

  • I feel that the only reason a child, as in age 8 to 15 , should have a cell phone would be for SAFETY reasons only. Just a cell, with no texting option.

    My son, who is 11, had a tracfone for the whole year he was 10. It had 200 minutes on it. He was told to not give ANYONE the phone number except his immediate family ( siblings). It wasn’t to be used for idle chit chat.

    It did make me feel very secure to know he had it on him at all times. It is also a good way to learn how responsible your child really is, before adding them to your family package, such as Verizon. At the end of the year, he still had 70 minutes left, and he completely abided by our rule to use it for immediate family only. He left it in his pants pocket and it went through the wash, and bit the dust. I just share mine with him for now. For example, his married sister lives two blocks and if he rides his bike to her apt. he takes my phone.

    Now I am 52, and probably old school. But I would not give a child a cell, with the text message option. It should just be used to call mom or dad or grandma, etc. If they want to call their friends, they should use the home phone only.

    My daughter called Verizon and you can have texting blocked also. Even though you don’t send texts, unless you have it blocked, you can still receive them. (and have to pay for them).

    When they turn 16/17, and are working and can pay for their own phone, then it is their choice.

    Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

    Very good blog – raises alot of concerns.

  • My daughter is 17, and she still does not own a cell phone.

    I give her mine to use if she is going to be out of the house and I remain at home.

  • we arent really there yet, my 6 y/o is begging for a phone he can call his daddy from but its not happening yet.
    we have gone to strictly cells at home so going to probably add a “house” phone of some kind over next 6 mos or so…i really want the verizon hub thing but cant get it in my area just yet. they are promising by the first of the year.

    anyway our kids will likely get phones around 12th b days.

  • We have an extra that is used by which ever kid needs it at the moment. If a kid is going to the park without me, or walking a friend home, or at a dance practice, they get it. It costs us $10 a month for a bit of peace and comfort. No one texts yet, so I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there.

  • My husband made the decision that our girls could have a phone (on our plan) when they turned 13. I thought it was ridiculous when they were attending our church’s private school where I taught (we were ALWAYS in the same building!) Now that the school has closed and they are in public school, I’m glad they have them. They call when their after school sports or choir are over, and I just like to know they can reach me if they have to. They also know their phones can (and have) been “gone through” and taken away as a consequence for behavior. Like, talk back to mom, you lose the chance to talk on the phone.
    The thing about phones (or tv, movies, clothes, etc.) is that for each family it may be a bit different. You have to make decisions for your family that you can live with 🙂

  • Since our house is mostly under a dictator’s rule (the dictator being ME), our daughter (9 years old) has been told that she can have a cell phone when her dad and I decide. However, when we decide that time has come, we will make sure we have the right/opportunity to go through her cell and texts. No monitoring=no cell.

  • When my 16yo daughter started going places without us and my 19yo son got a job. Just recently actually. We put our kids on our cell phone family plan, complete with unlimited nights and weekends and texting. We did have the internet turned off. Which you can do with a phone call to the phone company. So they can only call and text. That’s it!

  • Hmm – my kids are older. Only the youngest had a cell phone before college. She started by being allowed to take mine along to events. It allowed her to phone the house when the bus was twenty minutes out from the parking lot, or let me know that she wasn’t enjoying a party. It saved me time, kept the youth group leaders from spending hours in parking lots waiting for parents, and kept her safer. At sixteen she convinced her father that she should have her own. No text plan. We added a text plan when she was in college, mostly because friends insisted on texting her and it got expensive. Next to youngest daughter got a cell phone in her twenties when she missed a plane and her boss called us to figure out why she hadn’t turned up for work. (She DID call, but the asst. manager hadn’t told the manager.) The cell phone prevents my having another heart attack. She offered to pay the monthly fee and Daddy said he’d cover it.

    The older three kids are now in their thirties and grew up in the dark ages. They got cell phones when either the job provided one (number one son) or their husband did (daughters one and two).

  • I’m not sure you can put an age on it. Depends on the situation of the kid. Depends on the responsibility of the kid. I mean, I think until you’re repeatedly telling yourself “If only she had a cell phone…” there really isn’t a need.

  • I didn’t get my first cell phone until the Christmas after I turned 17, and for the first 4 months after I started driving, I carried my mother’s cell. My son is only 2, and IF I buy him a cell phone before he’s 16, it will be a firefly (or similar product) that has 3 numbers programmed in it (Mommy, Daddy and 911) and no number buttons to dial with. There is NO REASON a child who can’t/doesn’t have a job should have their own cell phone. That said, my parents paid my cell bill until I got my own plan at 20, but any overages I had to pay.

  • We’re going to get a third “family” phone that can only dial home, both grandmothers, mom and dad (and 911 of course). It wont BE anyone’s phone. It’s the family phone that goes with the family car. So, if we have a child babysitting or at camp or activities, they can take the family phone. Anyone driving anywhere will have a phone. When an under 18 year old has a job and wants to purchase a phone with his/her own money, we’ll decide based on their maturity after reviewing all the legal concerns (sexting, etc).

  • When they have a job and can pay for it themselves. At least that’s how we did it with ours.

  • My opinion is nope not on my dime. We do have a “home phone”(extra cell phone on our family plan) that the kids use when they need us, but it does not have any “extras” and I am TOTALLY not game for the texting business, too impersonal. That said, our kids are only 9, 7, and 2 respectively! 🙂 But, I lived without my own traveling phone and I suspect my children will as well. I think the risks for falling into dangerously tempting sin is much greater than any benefit that I can come up with. 🙂

  • Granted, I put the Old in Old School. BUT, I’m not letting my kids get a cell phone until they have their drivers’ licenses and have some form of income, however paltry. Until then, I know where they are and who they’re with at all times. I don’t have a cell phone plan — only a prepaid emergency phone. So I’m not willing to take on that family plan expense until it seems really, really necessary.

  • i had to wait until I was 23, but that had more to do with the fact that they came out then…sadly I’m that old. No kids, but I can’t imagine giving them one before 18, maybe 16 since they could be driving and possibly get stranded. And not at ALL in class!

  • We did not have a definite age planned, but my son received one when he turned 10. Let me explain:
    We have a family plan and had an extra line (long story) that we were already paying for. He received money for his birthday and asked us if he could buy a phone. We discussed, and agreed.

    I must admit that I like it. We do not have a texting plan so the rule is; NO TEXT! The only numbers he has stored are ours and his grandparents. He takes it when he goes to the neighbors (i.e. playing in the woods building forts, etc) and when we are out he has it. It makes things much easier for us at times.

    As long as he follows the rules and is responsible, he can keep it. Oh, we homeschool so there is no issues with classmates or anything like that.

  • If I were to get my kids cell phones, it would be one of those kid phones that only allow you to call certain preprogrammed numbers. My son is 10, and I have thought about it at times when I wanted to be able to leave him somewhere for a little while. So far he really hasn’t needed one.

  • Uhm…college? My 9 year old hasn’t started asking yet,maybe it’s because if I’ve told her once I’ve told her a gazillion times, “Not gonna happen, chickee”. 😀

  • Our daughters (not 19 and 17) each got a cell phone when they started driving. Our sons (now 15 and 10) have no need of cell phones yet.