Parenting

At which age do kids need a cellphone?

We all have these ideas on how we will parent. I set up some rules for kid 1, and they seem reasonable at the time. Kid 2 comes along…and you find you bend a bit, or relax those rules….. I think sleeping out and cellphones have been the 2 most complex issues in our home. Sleeping out is a post for another day though! Today I’m talking about cellphones, and at what age you think kids need a cellphone. I say ‘you’, because I need your input on this one as I word vomit the dialogue in my head, onto this page.

In a perfect world, we really didn’t think about when our eldest would be getting a cellphone. It was something so far away, that I thought we’d deal with it many many years in the future. When my eldest was a toddler, cellphones, tablets…they were not a thing. Dora the Explorer and DSTV were the in-thing 10yrs ago. in 2019… things have changed, whereby at this stage, even Adam wants his own phone. I remember thinking how extra rich people were for getting their 5yr olds tablets….. I get it now…. and I apologise for the judgement.

Reality

Our kids nag….they want the newest Barbie doll, an electric scooter…..a hoverboard….because their friends have it. Obviously, I’m failing at teaching my kids the 10 Commandment rule…Thou shalt not covet…..but anyways…. So friend 1 gets a cellphone, then friend 2….then apparently, your kid is the last kid in their social circle without a cellphone. Now it’s an identity crisis, they look poor (though really, you don’t look poor…WE ARE POOR!) and all these complaints to make us feel like the worst parents in the world. I know, many parents will say……don’t buy into the guilt trip…but guys…in 2019 it’s hard AF to ignore your kids.

My problem now is that my 2 older kids also love to watch each other. Irrespective of the age or gender differences, they feel entitled to want whatever the other is getting. Addison thinks Joshua needs to put in as much study time as she does, but she doesn’t think Joshua deserves a phone at age 7….hmmm…..

PROS

Contacting my kids

After school we have many unforseen emergencies, so it would be nice to be able to give them a heads up that the person picking them up will be late, or waiting at another gate, etc. Sometimes I want to contact them at home when nobody else is answering their phone, so it would come in handy in this instance as well.

Being able to socialise with their friends.

In my day….I was on the landline ALL DAY LONG with my friends. Yes, ‘socialising’ means more time on their phones, but honestly, I could have 2hr conversations with my friends every day….and I did. I know that with my eldest, not being privy to Whatsapp groups, she misses out on off the cuff, planned get togethers. Recently, only because a friend came over, my eldest found out all her friends had a get together planned that evening. She ended up being able to go, but had said friend not come over, eldest kid would have missed out. Not that missing a social occasion is a life-changing disaster….I know how ridiculous that sounds.

Teaching them responsibility

Them having cellphones would mean that they are responsible for it. It would teach them to be more aware of their belongings in general and maybe make them a bit more responsible.

A resource

My eldest is at an age where she needs to do research for projects, homework or assignments. All my kids share one computer at this stage, and mostly, Adam is king….purely because he cries the loudest. So if Addison had her own phone, she’d be able to do her research on her phone and also have access to online platforms like WorksheetCloud. For my younger kids, I could load a tablet or phone with educational games.

CONS

Whatsapp groups

So I said above….socialising is a ‘pro’, but on the other hand it’s also a con. WhatsApp groups can be mean, shady…..and maybe it could make your kid mean and shady. Once somebody screenshots their shadiness, it will get sent all over town and…#SocialPariahAlert….  It doesn’t even have to be shadiness, just anything. Being lured into some sort of conversation and jumping on the bandwagon, talking about a teacher or another student. So ya, this one is a bit of a double edged sword. I have already heard about such things happening within my kid’s circle of friends, and I really do not want her to be associated with groups/situations like that.

Being available on social media

I think we can check messages and be as involved as we can be, but there’s always the risk that something slips through the cracks. Slipping through the cracks could mean putting your child in some sort of danger. Our kids being naive, and giving out our home address or the name of their school…scary things like that! Sexual predators…..online bullying….all dangers that a cellphone can expose them too.

Financial loss

If having a cellphone does not teach them to be more mindful of their surroundings or responsible, they could easily become a target for theft. Heck they may even throw it away themselves and leave it on a bench somewhere…. So losing the cellphone would result in financial loss….for me… I am not about the financial loss life….I do enough of that myself!

In the end, I think we can debate all day on the pros and cons of our kids having cellphones. One also needs to take into account the maturity of your child and how you think they’ll deal with having a cellphone. In the word’s of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben….With great power, comes great responsibility. That is what we need to be most mindful of and drill into our kids if we do give them cellphones.

Hypothetically

Hypothetically speaking, if I did give in to their little heart’s desires….and get them cellphones;

  • I’d hope to drill into them that if you wouldn’t say something to that person’s face, don’t type it anywhere.
  • Be kind, don’t be a bully. Ever. Please parents, speak to your kids about this!
  • Check messages, no deleting of messages allowed.
  • Never give out your personal information to ANYBODY.
  • Approve who gets added as a contact/friend, and who can see statuses.
  • What am I missing?

With younger kids, like Adam and Joshua…..I think a phone or tablet would serve more as a recreational sort of item, so the above pros and cons wouldn’t necessarily apply to them.

Please weigh in, what are your thoughts (parents and future parents)….How old are your kids, what are the cellphone protocols and rules in your home? If your child has a cellphone, how old were they and what are your tips for staying on top of their cellphone activity and usage? 

Disclaimer: All images taken from Pexels.

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I’m Simone, a mom of 3, a wife, chocoholic and makeup lover! This is my little spot to talk about anything and everything I’m obsessed with.

16 Comments

  • Maajidah Dollie

    My eldest kid has had a tablet since he was 6 years old. But it’s mainly used for school work and has games. He does have his dad’s old cellphone. But it used at home only for his robotics.
    I can understand the pros of getting hold of them. And I have enquired whether other boys in his class has one. But yes the concern is always them giving out too much info. Or forgetting it somewhere. And perhaps when they start having their own social life they can have one. #firstworldproblems

    • Simone

      Do other kids in his class have cellphones? The kids aren’t allowed phones at school, but I think after school they can switch them on. I”m not 100% sure. So if not allowed at school…then the getting hold of them argument doesn’t hold water. I should probably look into this. lol.

      Definitely once the social life hits, this is when it becomes more of am issue.

  • Dionne Peters

    I have this same “argument” in my house regarding being the last kid in class to have WhatsApp (insert eye roll). Luckily for now its not impacting anything… but i know by next year this will probably be an issue.

    My 2 eldest never had tablets. Instead we gave them our old phones (cheaper lol).. there is no sim so they can only use it for downloading and playing games/videos. They are 9 and 10 yrs old. So no social media or texting or calling. I am still undecided as to when we will give simcards. For the same reasons you list here.

    I do know that when i do allow it, the phone will only be allowed during certain times (e.g. from 8am to 8pm or something). And i will randomly check it myself ( they will know this upfront).

    But I’ve also heard the screenshotting horror stories… its such a slippery slope. Cyber bullying is real.

    • Simone

      Parenting is HARD Dionne! Darn it. If anything happens, we’re the one that gave them this access in the first place.

      Thanks for the tips though….I didn’t think about an allocated time.

      I can probably get away with giving Joshua his ‘own’ cellphone without a sim card still…he just wants in on the ‘access to you tube anytime’ sort of action.

      Your kids are very close in age, so I am sure 9yr old is going to be like….hey if she gets one, I get one! If 10yr old is anything like my 10yr old, she’ll be like: I didn’t have a cellphone when I was 9! LOL. We need prayers!

  • Dionne

    This has been a constant struggle since like 1 and 2 yrs old already lol i cannot buy/bring anything for just the 1…. ever! Its only allowed around birthdays. But even they get compared… but i didnt get THIS for my birthday…. gosh! Lol

  • Ferowza

    Parenting is hard hey! We gotta think through so many scenarios sometimes to make a decision we pray to God is right.
    On the cellphone thing, I don’t think there is a right age, maybe just more of a right time or situation. My kids are almost 6, and 3. We gave our eldest my hubby’s old phone recently, which then went to our youngest when a friend of my hubby gave our eldest a small tablet. They mainly use the devices for games and YouTube Kids. The phone has a data sim in it which I used to use for my iPad, so the kids can watch some YouTube Kids when we’re not in a wifi zone.
    But I wouldn’t give my kids phones that they can use for calls, messaging or social media at this age. I might consider it for our eldest when she’s a bit older (maybe late primary school), but it’ll be a hand-me-down or inexpensive smart phone. And there’s gonna be constant education around the use of the device and being safe (and sane!) on social media. This shit gets scary hey…

    • Simone

      It really does get scary….I agree 100%! I think you have a good plan there…. My daughter is in late primary school now, so I think this is why the talk is getting to a point where we need to make a decision. Oi.

  • Juwayra Januarie

    My 2 older has cellphones, They don’t have whatsapp on them or any other social media apps. Their phones are used to play games on (Jaymee) and watch youtube videos (Azaria). The purpose of the WhatsApp was to chat to their cousins who they don’t often see but it was deleted it quickly after a friend invited strangers on WhatsApp groups they were in and that totally freaked me out! My little one uses my husband’s tablet to watch movies and play games on. They don’t see their phones during the week and also not every single weekend especially when they have books to read.

    I must admit that it have been a struggle setting the same rule for everyone because the youngest doesn’t always understand.

    • Simone

      This is exactly the issue…the younger kids want the same privileges! Also….that WhatsApp group situation is a bit scary!! YIKES! Luckily you stayed on top of it!

      I thought about restricting the groups she can be in and the friends she can chat to, but that becomes a slippery slope. X wants to know why i have Y on whatsapp and I can’t add her???? This is too hard!! lol.

  • Donna Moodley

    Loving the new look of the blog Moni.

    This is why I love your blog. Always covering all the topics that are so important and we should be talking about.

    The cyber world is a scary and dangerous one and I’m sure as much as we don’t want them to have cell phones I would like Nehara to have one for emergencies. Like yesterday they didn’t have their afternoon sport which meant me fetching her an hour later than usual. If she had a phone she could’ve contacted me to fetch her.

    Nehara has a tablet with no Sim in it. My sis in law gifted her with this without chatting to us first…. She received it when she was 6..which we weren’t to happy about but what could we do after she gave it to her whilst we were all sitting there.
    She watches movies, YouTube videos and plays games.

    This is where it gets tricky. Shylah is turning 3 next week and is using her dad’s old phone… All her songs are on there and her educational games. Ideally I wouldn’t want her to use a phone period.. But the child absolutely loves music. Even holds the phone as a mic

    They are not allowed to use their devices during the week though and if on weekends, there’s still a time limit as to how long they can use it.

    Ooh we can chat about this all day. Loved this post my friend

  • Simmi

    Blake has had a phone since age 10. My reason was so that she could be in touch with her Dad and their family. And then my family of course.

    The cellphone was given Friday after school till Sunday 5pm.

    So over the years she received my hand me down
    Now I regret giving the dam thing in the first place. Sometimes I regret it… Sometimes when she is punishes and has not cellphone I am panicked and stressed as I have no way of contacting her. And then there are times that I am so greatful there is a way of communicating with her when I need to get hold of her.

    We can weigh the pro’s and con’s all we like but fact is that we cannot raise our kids the way our parents raised us cos that woeld no longer exists. With that being said… Maturity and trustworthiness comes hand in hand with a cellphone. So sometimes we have to bend the rules we created to be able to understand the world our kids are growing up in

    Thankfully I have just 1 kid that I need to worry about… But it’s exhausting to wonder how kids will know when we running late. Or how safe they are or where they are.

    Each to his own I always say… But it’s not fair that we as parents have to be bullied into feeling guilty that our kids friends have what our kids don’t have. That is the stigma we need to overcome… And it’s one feeling a child will never outgrow unfortunately.

    Good luck… We live in a cruel world with amazing kids 💜

    • Simone

      Maturity and trustworthiness….this is very true. If you have the world’s most trustworthy and honest child, this isn’t a debate. I’d like to think I have such a kid….but I don’t know how adding a cellphone into the mix is going to give her the opportunity to become untrustworthy. lol.

      Reading all these comments though….restricting the days and times it can be used seems like a very good protocol to introduce. With school being so busy anyways during the week…there’ll be no time for cellphones.

  • Nicola Woods

    Hi Sim… Both my girls have cell phones which very seldom get used because the batteries are always flat from playing games. Our girls had tablets from a young age because we never had Xbox and all the other games kids have nowadays. So also I stead of getting the extremely expensive leap pad and the expensive games that go along with it… We opted for the cheap tablets and downloaded games onto that for them…

    We got to a stage where Taylor got the new upgraded tablet and a few months later Rachel’s screen cracked… At the time I was due for an upgrade and she got my old Samsung… So that’s kinda how she ended up with a phone quite by default…. Then Stephen got his upgrade and Taylor got his phone…

    If I look at how these girls communicate its very very seldom… But I must say there has not been any cattiness on any of the groups as they hardly chat.. I presume that parents are so aware of the online community that they awarn their kids… I don’t know but it’s not a problem at this stage…

    You can also control her access by limiting her data…

    My girls never take their phones to school – but u do try and encourage them to have it when going to visit or other people’s houses (like your dreaded sleepover) just that if they in a situation they can contact me…

    • Simone

      Nicola I agree….we got a leapad once and what a waste….. A tablet in that respect is a much better option. Addison got a tablet when she was about 6 or 7 I think. but without a sim card. So this isn’t exactly an issue…..I think it’s basically just adding Whatsapp into the mix that gets me nervous. Are they even allowed phones at school? I think mostly I want Addison to have one so I can reach her after school….because you know how confusing our afternoons get…lol. I feel so frantic trying to get hold of people to see if anybody can find Addison and get a message to her.

      Thanks for the input…. Reading all the comments…I forgot that school is so busy in the week, so I really don’t see a phone being an issue during the week, and I’d just have to stay on top of the time spent chatting.

      Sleepovers…..a blog post for another day! lol

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