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making the call

Is there a “right time” to give your child a cell phone?

Julie Young

“Can I have a cell phone?” It’s a question today’s parents expect to be asked at some point during their child rearing years, but one which lacks a clear-cut answer. Although cell phones are convenient and come with unquestionable safety benefits, they are also costly, can be a distraction and open the door to a host of other potential problems. Once upon a time, cell phones were typically earmarked for teenaged drivers who needed one in the event of a roadside emergency or those who had a part-time job to help pay for it. However, thanks to a wide variety of plans designed with the busy family in mind, it is more common than ever for kids of all ages to have their own device. In fact, according to the National Consumers League, a whopping 56 percent of kids aged 8-12 have their own cell phones while research at Pew 30


Charitable Trusts show that 75 percent of teenagers report having cell phones. Parental opinion varies widely on the subject of when to grant this privilege. Recently Cincinnati Parent Facebook readers were asked “At what age did you allow a cell phone for your child? What factored into your decision?” Several posts stated that a common age was between 10 -13 years old and a concern for safety and the convenience of staying connected were frequently the deciding issues. Reader Rebecca J. wrote “Our children each got phones at the age of 12 when we knew they would have a greater need for one due to spending more time with friends, sports...etc.” Christine M. says age 13 for her kids, “They were a couple of years behind their classmates. It’s nice when they are away from the house & they are responsible with them. I check” Another reader commented, “7th grade - the school

expects them to be able to reach parents after sports and other after school activities.” For others, not having a home phone factored into their decision, as Stephanie B. said, “We just gave our almost 12-year-old one for Christmas (a very basic smartphone... not an iPhone or anything!) She’s started staying home alone and we don’t have a landline, so it was an easy decision.” If you’re contemplating a cell phone for your child, it’s important to take into account his or her maturity level. Here are few questions to consider before making your decision: • Can your child handle the

responsibility of a cell phone? • Do they have a habit of losing


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