When should parents take the plunge?

“Cell phones are part of modern life, and kids will need them eventually,” says Lisa Ryan, MD, PhD, a Washington University clinical associate pediatrician at Woods Mills Pediatrics. “Personally, I think most kids don’t need a cell phone until age 13. By that time, most kids will be responsible enough to keep track of their phone and they will likely be involved in more after-school activities, creating a need for parents to be able to reach their children.”

However, there is no “right” age to get your child their first cell phone. You will know when your child can handle the responsibility or when it’s necessary to keep in touch. 

3 Ways to Stay Smart About Phones

Dr. Ryan recommends these steps to help your child use their first phone wisely.

  • Be smart about socializing. Cell phones don’t have to mean social media access, but if it does, encourage your child to be careful. Dr. Ryan suggests telling your child not to post anything she would not want her grandmother to read. 
  • Schedule check-ins. “Let your child know that you may look through his phone at any time,” Dr. Ryan says. “There are also certain apps or programs that you can download to help monitor his phone usage.”
  • Tell your child it’s OK to wait. “It’s OK for your child to not have a phone yet,” Dr. Ryan says. “Chances are, she’s not the only one.”

Learn more about cell phones and kids from Dr. Ryan at ChildrensMD.org/KTCellPhone.