Cell Phone Contracts for Kids
When Miss M celebrated her 8th birthday in second grade, we let her have a sleepover with a handful of friends. We knew most of the kids from extra curricular activities or from volunteering in the classroom. There are a few that we didn’t know nor did we know their parents. So when one showed up with a cell phone we were slightly surprised but not skeptical. As a parent I figured it was probably a safety matter.
Unfortunately that wasn’t really the case. The phone wasn’t a family emergency phone but was actually her personal phone. She spent the entire party and into the evening texting with her brother. She completely cut herself off from all the other girls.
I had already figured that 15 or 16 (maybe 12 or 13) would be an ideal age for my daughters to get their own phone. That was the age approximately when my niece and nephew got theirs. Eight certainly was too young. Not only was the child not responsible and would probably lose it but she also had no concept of etiquette.
Yet here I am, somewhat hypocritical, gifting my daughter with a new cell phone on her 11th birthday. She’s in advanced placement classes, she’s in the orchestra, she’s in sports. In other words, she’s very responsible. As she continues to get older and more involved, I spend more time shuttling her to and from places and less time sitting and waiting. What this means is I need a way to get a hold of her and she needs a way to get a hold of me.
It’s really a sign of the times. Technology changes the way we live and operate. There was a time when it was unusual for high school students to have computers at home. Now not only do high school students carry laptops but many elementary school students do as well. There are some schools that provide iPads to all their students. It simply an indication that the standards have changed and a cell phone should change as well. If a child is responsible enough to be somewhere on their own then they should be responsible enough to take care of a cell phone. In a recent U.S. Cellular survey respondents indicated that 13 was an appropriate age for a child to receive their first phone. Five years ago that number was 15.
Of course we don’t let her run about willy-nilly with her phone; we have rules. U.S. Cellular offers device workshops to teach kids (and adults) how to use the various devices. In addition, the family protector app allows parents to monitor their child’s location, device activity as well as place restrictions as needed. However, as a parent sometimes it’s important to spell things out in very black and white. Aside from the obvious “it’s not a toy it’s a tool” rules we also establish rules about where she’s not allowed to take it, when she’s not allowed to use it and what types of functions she’s allowed to use it for. U.S. Cellular has an excellent parent child agreement for phone usage. If a child is responsible enough to have a phone then they should feel confident signing their name to an agreement that states the rules.
The U.S. Cellular parent child agreement includes rules such as:
– Use my phone during times we’ve agreed upon as a family.
– Follow all school policies regarding mobile phone use at school.
– Never use my phone to engage in any rude, inappropriate or bullying activity.
For us, having a child with the phone has been a blessing in disguise. They are old enough to use the restroom at the store by themselves yet I always worry about them. At least now I know they can contact me if something is wrong. DH and I also enjoy going out to lunch and shopping while the kids are in school. No longer do we need to worry about being a few minutes late we can just text her and let her know.
A few years ago during that birthday party I would have never guessed this is how I would feel today.
Does your child have a phone and if so did you have them sign a cell phone contract? If your child doesn’t have a phone yet, what is your target age?
32 thoughts on “Cell Phone Contracts for Kids”
I am not sure I will be giving my son a cell phone….
All 3 of my older kids have cell phones. My oldest who’s 19 now, got his when he was 13 or 14 I think. My two younger kids who are now 16 and 14, both got their phones at around 12. I have an 18 month old as well and I can’t even imagine how it will be when she gets older and starts asking for one. I have friends who gave their 8 or 9 year olds a phone and I find that so crazy. I don’t have a specific contract with my older kids, but there have always been rules..like not using it at school and definitely not in use while we are sitting down for dinner. Even when we go out to dinner to a restaurant, we have a no technology rule. This may make me seem like an old lady lol but I just got a cell phone for the first time a few weeks ago. I’ve always been so against them because I hate how people have turned into zombies but I’ve found it’s becoming necessary for my job. Crazy thing is, I’m a programmer, you’d think I would embrace the technology.
OMG, I LOVE the idea of a parent-child cell phone contract. We got my son one this year for his tenth birthday. He rarely talks to anyone on it, but I love the fact that I can get in touch with him and vice versa. His soccer practices end at 9:00 pm, long after it is dark out. And he can text me when the bus is late or when he wants to stay at a friend’s house just a little bit longer. The peace of mind I terrific, but I do worry that he will misplace it.
I had no idea there is any such thing like – kids cell phone contracts or cellular parent child agreement. I loved it, Although I believe kids should not be given cellphone, but there are times when you have to.
My son had a cell phone at 8 years old, no contract between us. We only let him use though during specific times like when he was at auntie sissy’s or grandma’s house and need to call me. I like to tell him I love you and good night every night like most moms 🙂 and if he just wanted to call his mama or daddy! Other than that he didn’t have a cell. He’s 11 now and hasn’t questioned it.
Times have changed so much since I was a kid. I know when my kids were in pre-school they started using computers. Thanks for sharing.
Never thought I would buy my 8 year old a cell phone but she is so involved in drop off activities and sports and there are no pay phones anymore and I don’t want her approaching strangers to ask to use their phones, I feel better about her having one. We have our own verbal contract and I know she can be trusted.
I have gotten my 12 year old a pone already. I started out with a prepaid one first.
My daughters know they won’t get a phone until they are 15 or 16. They are very responsible, and even published a book that will be at bookstores. They make money speaking about Self Esteem for Kids, and they are excellent children with many talents. However, I just think the risks outweigh any possible benefits. I am glad there is a contract, though. I don’t judge those who give their children a cell phone, and I support that they treat is as a privilege, rather than a right.
My oldest is only 4, so we’ve still got a little while to figure these things out, but I love your point about spelling it out in black and white what’s acceptable and what’s not. And I also think that the ideal age will be different for each child- since each child is so extremely different. Pinning.
I’m not ready for my kids to have phones. My one son is 9 yrs old now. I have an extra phone that I can leave with him when he has to be at baseball without us.
We haven’t gotten to this point yet. I guess I wonder when this point in time really is.
We have been considering a cell phone for our son. He will be 11 in December and is much like your daughter. He is starting 6th grade this fall and really is very responsible. We want to give him more freedom but also like the idea of knowing he can reach us and vice-versa in an emergency.
Until just recently, I would not even have considered giving my (now) 8 year old a cell phone before her 12th birthday. However, next summer she’ll be going to a summer camp across the country and I’m really wondering about it perhaps being a good idea to get her one late next spring? I admit though, the thing you mentioned with the kid at the party who had the cell and alienated herself from everyone because she was texting? Yeah, that’s a huge HUGE concern of mine. I do like the idea of a contract between the child and parents and my husband and I might talk about it when trying to make the decision about whether we want to go ahead and get her a cell phone next year.
We have a non-contract kind-of plan for my kids, teetering on the idea of adding them to our plan.
My daughter is 15, and we go by all three of those rules and then some. She HATES that we monitor and control what she does with the phone, but she’s also learning that the phone can be a weapon when it comes to relationships and trust. Using it responsibly is up to us to teach and her to implement.
This will be coming soon enough for us, our oldest is almost 7 and already asking for a phone. Though he is not very responsible with his belongings. Looks like I will be reading more into this during the coming years.
My oldest is 10 and I am not ready to get him a phone yet. We might just add him onto our plan when the time
I like the idea of a contract. It helps them realize that everyone is taking the responsibility seriously.
a contract is a great idea. Mine want iphones but I told them that was just not in the budget!
I got my oldest his when he was about 11 as he needed a way to reach me. We had no choice but to add him to the contract, there weren’t any other options out there back then.
my child has a go phone. I don’t think I would be comfortable signing a contract for him just yet.
Our girls share a phone to text family members (we’re a blended family) and a few approved friends, but that’s it so far.
We struggled over getting a cell phone for our 12, soon to be 13 year old son. Or shall I say my husband struggled as I was better about it. I feel it teaches them to be responsible in how to take care of items that are fragile. For example first week into having the phone my son left his phone in his pocket, hubs washed his clothing. They each pointed fingers at each other, I felt bad for not getting to my sons clothing before my hubs as I always check pockets. son now has a waterproof, shockproof phone, but I keep reminding him how he still needs to be responsible for taking care of it. Girls are so much better about taking care of their things, but boys can be rough on cell phones.
My 17 year old is the only one of our three daughters who has her own cell phone, though we’ll probably be giving our second daughter a phone for her 14th birthday this September… And for many of the reasons you share. It’s sad that the little 8 year old cut herself off with her phone, and I don’t understand why some of my 1st graders classmates have phones, fancy smartphones at that, because in the case of my little one, she depends on us to take her everywhere she needs to be. With my 17 year old who has been driving for a year, her phone has brought me peace of mind on more than one occasion. We do not have a phone contract though but I LOVE that and will be implementing in our home and sharing with our school. Schools should have a contract with students and their parents since it is a reality that most kids do have a cell phone they bring to school every day.
It’s crazy how much younger kids are when they are getting cellphones. I like the idea of a family protector app.
I am so utterly glad that you wrote this blog post!! We homeschool our kids and they aren’t involved in any sports this year, but we are considering putting them back in sports again. However, the topic of my oldest (who will be 11 in October) getting his own cell phone has come up several times because all of his friends have cell phones of their own already. That still blows my mind, but they do. Unfortunately, I can’t say that my oldest son acts very responsible at all, and the idea of giving him a cell phone holds little to no appeal at all!
It’s so cool to hear that U.S. Cellular offers workshops for kids. And the parent/child cellular use agreement sounds like such a great idea. I am not looking forward to facing these issues with my own son!
We were on the fence about getting our kids phone but currently our 13 year old has one but our soon to be 8 year old doesn’t. It’s been great. He has rules but he follows them.
My son is only 4.5 so I have a little bit before he needs a cell phone, but these are great tips.