Conflicted - Teen Son "NEEDS" Cell Phone - Lots of Questions

Updated on December 13, 2010
S.T. asks from Castle Rock, CO
16 answers

Help. Need lots of insight. My almost 14 year old son desperately NEEDS a cell phone according to him.Please give me your insights as I'm very conflicted. He there are only 2 other 8th graders without a cell phone He says that the parents pay for the cell phones, but he initially said he would pay for his. I get the social ramifications. His I-pod Touch has the capability to text for free. I've done lots of research into the impacts of electropollution (TV show in Aspen 10+ countries have issued advisories against children and pregnant woman should not use cell phones period. Pretty strong stance. From parents and teens I've interviewed, they talk about problems with memory, more gastrointestinal problems, attention issues, sleep problems and lots more. My son does not care about the health implications. He is willing to put a patented cell guard chip on it. Also concerned how zombie like kids (and adults) become with being constantly connected.
1. What age did your kids get cell phones?
2. Was it a true need or a want? Just borrow a phone from your friend if you need to call home!
3. Who pays for them?
4. What rules do you have about the use? What problems have you encountered?
5. Do you ever wish you had never gotten them the phone?
6. Are they addicted?
Anything else to consider?

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answers from Detroit on

I didn't get a cell phone until I was 17, paid for it myself, and was almost never home (school & work full time).

Neither of my kids will get a full fledged cell phone until they have a job and can pay for it themselves... Unless it's one made to only call my phone or 911.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

As far as the "just borrow a phone" thing: At my last job I worked with several moms of pre-teen and teenage children. One frequent complaint that I heard from them was that they felt taken advantage of by the moms who expected their children to "just borrow a phone" One of them went so far as to demand that the mom of one of her daughter's friends start paying a part of the bill!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

He's 14! I am sure most of the other kids do have cell phones.

Many parents have conflicting views so you just have to weed through opinions and decide what is best for your family.

1. My daughter was around 10 when she got her first cell phone (She'll be 16 at the end of this month)

2.I can't say it was technically a "need", however, our purpose was for safety reasons. We don't compromise on health or safety. No, she was not home alone, etc but she had her phone so contact with us was asap if needed

3. She is on my plan and I pay for it. We all have IPhones and our bill with unlimited data plans, etc rund $194/month. We prefer to all carry the same type phone.

4.We have not encountered any problems. We do have a mature responsible daughter.

5. No I never wish I had not given her a phone. She has contacted me when a lockdown was going on at school, she has contacted me via text to come get her when she was at a party and some kids started trying alcohol.

6. Addicted... No, I don't think so any more than kids were addicted to talking on a phone in their room when they were kids.

It is the way they communicate, the way we communicate and I personally don't see the big deal about it.

Just weigh out all the opinions and decide for yourself if you and your 14 yr old are ready for the responsibility.

Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I bet he is just saying that he needs it cause other children all have them at school and he feels left out. Maybe even getting picked on for not having one. So in his eyes he needs one to probably fit in better.

If he is a trust worthy kid then I say go for it.
I would set some ground rules and say that he can only have it when he goes to school, not to make calls unless its to you or an emergency, no running up the bill, or running out of minutes which ever way you decide to go. And then that way he wont be addicted to it at home cause he wont have it.
If he has money to pay for it then great, if you decide to pay for it make him do chores, and odd jobs for you to pay for it every month, then its not like your handing it to him, he is working for it.
If he doesnt like it then no phone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Hi S., my kids are 18, 16, and 13. I have a plan where all four phones have unlimited everything (including text and internet) through AT&T for about $200 a month. We cancelled the home phone ages ago.

They are all a little different, my oldest didn't have one til 8th grade, you youngest had one in 3rd grade.

We have not run into any problems. They haven't lost them, broken them, misused them, gotten in trouble for using them at inappropriate times, etc. But they are great kids with huge grades and don't have issues following the cell phone rules.

I understand the are many parents with cell phone issues, but there is always SOMETHING the older generation thinks is awful while the younger generation can't live with out.

You need to come up with a set of rules YOU'RE comfortable with. In fact, if you don't want him to have one, that's OK too.

Facts are for me, I REALLY like being able to be in constant contact with them. When to pick them up, I text them randomly when they're at different functions I can't be at with them.

Our main rule is that when I text or call they had BETTER answer it. They seem to be able to understand when it's appropriate and when it's not. Yes, they text their friends a lot (personally I would've LOVED to be able to have such easy communication when I was a kid), it does not interfere with the things they need to get done.

I also know a lot of parents who use the cells for discipline, kid screws up, phone is the first thing to go.

When I was a kid, my mother didn't think we really 'needed' a home phone, after all when SHE was a kid not everybody HAD home phones.

I have heard of the health implications you mention but have not noticed any with us.

Btw, your son is right, it IS unusual for a 14 year old to not have a cell, least the 14 year olds we know.

Good Luck, hope this helps!


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Necessity, no. Extremely convenient, yes. My oldest 3 are out of the house, and my 9 year old doesn't have one yet.

In hindsight, I wish I had set stricter rules, such as the phone gets turned in to ME to be kept in MY ROOM at night. As far as don't text or use during school hours. You can't really monitor that, unless you have a detailed bill, in which case, you should have a preset punishment ready and waiting. (such as lose it for one hour for every 1 minute used during forbidden time). Also, If I could, I would invest in one of those programs that sends duplicates of all their texts and pics to my email account. Teens feel much freer on phones and will talk about things they normally wouldn't, and send each other pics they shouldn't, etc.

The good side is that you can always reach them, and if you have phones with GPS, you can track where they are. My rule was they better ALWAYS answer my calls or texts. If they had a job, they had to pay at least a portion of the bill.

I would say now that my 2 oldest use their phones as the tools they are meant to be, while the 18 year old is still a stinkin teenager that THINKS she is an adult and is quite addicted.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

Cell phones for kids are a terrible idea...unless they are necessary for the safety of the child (IMHO). That being said we do have one for our kids...with the following rules:

1. Only used on days when our older son goes home alone instead of his grandma's house after school with his little brother.
2. Only allowed to call preprogrammed numbers that I put in (mom's number, dad's number, both our work numbers, grandma's number, the taxi company, and my friend's number who is closer than I and my husband when we are working).
3. No texting...ever.
4. We pay $10 month for an extra line.
5. My son calls when he is finished with his after school activity, while he walks home, and when he gets home, or if he needs anything while he is home alone...and he only uses it on the days he does stay after school.
6. No calling or texting friends, ever!

We bought him a phone because he is coming home alone and walking home by himself to guitar and service learning, which are both after school. We have no long distance service on our home phone, and both my husband's and my work (along with our cell phones) are long distance.

If it werent for this...he wouldn't have a phone. We have never had a problem because we are so restrictive on it. Honestly, he feels cool having the phone...but never uses it except to contact us, so it hasn't been a problem. For him it is more of a status symbol since we control it completely.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I haven't read any replies yet, but just wanted to say that I don't think kids should have a cell until they start driving and even then they should only be able to use it for emergencies (car breaking down, out of gas, accidents). I was 18 when I got my first cell and even then I had to hide it from my dad because if he knew that I was paying for a phone, then he said I should be paying rent (I was working and going to college). So, I think when they start driving is a good age.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

My son is 7 and not old enough for one.
I did read Queen Bee's and wanna bees or what ever the title of that book is. And the author mentioned that cell phones give parents a false sense of safety. Kids can lie about where they are and what they are doing. And being able to check in with them doesn't necessarily mean you would be able to save them from anything bad happening. I feel like i'm mucking up the authors points, They made alot of sense at the time. I"m just not convinced kids will cell phones are as safe as we would like to think they are.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

S., I'm so glad to see that there ARE some people out there who worry about EMFs besides me!! Here is some additional information:

My daughter is only 5.5 years, but if she were 15 right now I'd still say no to a cell phone. I was absolutely shocked when my sister-in-law got my 8 year old niece a cell phone last Christmas.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from McAllen on

My sister is 16 she doesn't uses the mins. for calling my parents, my dad will never understand texting, jajajaja, but other than that she only texts. She does/doesnt pay for her phone, we have a priviledge-responsibility thing with my dad, so thats where the payment comes from. She is not addicted to it, she has a computer, and loves to read, and since she has a good amount of chores at home, is quite busy. I think its really convenient for her to have a phone because she can communicate with us quickly if need be, and because she can communicate with others.
One house rule is she can't text or call anyone (outside family) after 7. My dad says its not appropriate, and since we have family time @ that time, she doesn't need to.
I see a lot more pros to giving him a cellphone than cons. But its your choice, and that will always ultimately be the best choice.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

1. My daughter had just turned 8 when she got her first phone. It was a pay as you go trac-phone and once she 'proved' responsible I added her onto my plan and upgraded her to a nicer phone. She is now 10 and in 5th grade and I would say 3/4 of the kids in her class have their own phone.

2. I believe it was a need. I have sole custody but she flies to see her dad who lives out of state and he is NOT good about having her call me when she lands or takes off - and is just generally not good about letting her call me from his phone. He also would complain that he had to talk to ME to get to her. So, this worked out great for all of us.

3. I pay for the basic phone. If she wants any downloads (music, wallpaper etc) she has to pay for it or ask for it as a gift.

4. We have basic rules. If a family member calls she answers, no exceptions. She can't text at school, during dinner or when she is doing homework. The phone gets plugged in every night so it is always fully charged. I can look through her phone anytime I want. I don't limit the # of texts because as long as everything else is done (homework, room clean, chores finished, piano practiced) I could care less how much she texts - all that other stuff doesn't leave her much time to text with her friends anyway.

5. I have never regretted getting her the phone.

6. She is not addicted, but it certainly is a way of life for her to be able to communicate 'on-the-go' just like the rest of the adult world is addicted to their cell phones.

anything else to consider.... I don't use her phone as punishment for things she does that are unrelated to the phone. The primary use for the phone is so that she can communicate with me or her dad (or other family) whenever she wants or when we need to talk to her. Secondary is to text with her friends. So, if she does something I wouldn't ever take away her phone - her consequence for whatever she does would be based on whatever she did.

Lots of parents say kids don't "need" a phone to fit in. I would ask if they remember being in high school when peer pressure is so extremely prevalent and kids are basing their self-image off of what is cool. Make him an outcast and he'll be an outcast. I don't bow to the whim of everything and I raise my daughter to believe that materialism doesn't = happiness. But, I do feel like it is important for a kid to fit in and then you teach them to like kids who have their same interest, don't base how you feel about someone off what they have etc etc etc.

But I remember when my mom thought a microwave was "just the most extravagent ridiculous thing". I laugh at her. And that wasn't even tied to something as emotionally large as peer pressure and trying to fit in as a teen.

You have to make the decision that is right for you - good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My kids were about 12 when they got theirs. It is nice cuz you can call them whenever you want. If he has the means to pay for it I would let him pay for it. Teaches responsibility. You can go to PagePlus they have great unlimited plans for cheap.

ITS A WANT im sure :)

Cant use during school hours....

Let him get one and see how it goes... you can always change your mind later....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My son was about 13 when he got his first cell phone. And I have to say I don't regret getting it for him. It is nice to able to call him and check in with him any time I want. And when he's out with his buddies he has to call and check in at certain times. I feel I have a better grasp on what he is doing while out and about.
Our rules are: no using during school and after a certain time at night and in the morning. I am able to put blocks on it so I control the times he's able to use it. I also check his texts and who he is calling whenever I request.
Is he addicted? I would have to say yes he is. I use it for punishments so if he gets in trouble for something that is the first thing he looses. And I swear the fit that he throws is sometimes worse than the fits my 3 year old can throw.
If your son has the means to pay for it I would make him do so. Makes him more responsible for his usage. We have a family plan so all of us have phones. My husband and I pay for the overall bill but we make our son pay the extra so that can have unlimited texting. It is unbelievable to number of texts teens can send in one month even when they are limited to the number of hours in the day. So as a word of caution it is worth paying the extra for unlimited texting.

Good luck in whatever your decision.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Redding on

I'm a single mom and I got my son a cell phone for emergencies when he was about 10. (I don't have one, by the way).
I got him a pay-as-you-go trac phone so that he could call me or someone else if necessary. I told him that if he lost it, broke it, or ran out his minutes, that would be the end of the phone. None of the above happened. He was very responsible.
I'm kind of "old school" when it comes to things. I don't think any kid NEEDS a cell in they will die of social shame if they don't have one.
I surprised my daughter with a cell phone for her 13th birthday and she told me she didn't like it because it wasn't the kind her friends had. I took the phone back and never did buy her another one. She was SOL.
There's nothing wrong with your kids being able to call you or vice versa, but the texting and e-mailing from the phone and all that is absolutely unnecessary in my opinion.
Phones are much more a want than a need. Heck, like I said, I don't have one.
If you want to get your son one for emergencies, get a pay-as-you-go and let him earn his minutes. That way, you can't get any surprise bills and he can't use more minutes than he pays for. It does teach responsibility. If he does what my daughter did and acts like it's not good enough, then I guess he doesn't "want" a phone that badly.
I would start him out with something simple at first, but that's just me.

Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter got hers at about age 10 (she is 16 now). Not a need, but a convenience for all of us. None of us had texting then, actually didn't until about 18 mos ago? We always had a shared calling plan and similar, if not the same, phones. We found that easier if any of us had a phone issue. Currently we all have the HTC EVO 4G. We have been Sprint customers for more years than I can remember. We canceled our home phone about 3 years ago. Her portion of the minutes used was always very minimal, and often, early on, she wouldn't even have it with her (when we were all together, etc..she had to be reminded to take it). It wasn't a big deal to her.

Now we all use the life out of our phones. They are small computers for us and we try to use them for many things..calendars...alarm clocks...texting..she and I IM and FB (with each other and friends). She knows I will take her phone at any time and read whats on there.....she is a good kid, with good friends and good head on her shoulders. I do trust her.

I have no regrets about getting and paying for her phone and have encountered no problems. As far as the borrowing from a friend to make calls..I would get annoyed if it were happening all the time. For me, my phone is a personal thing...alot of personal info is in there..numbers and emails and business I have taken, etc. Occasionally is OK, but to rely on mine (or my kids) to get your communication needs done...that would be overstepping to me. JMO.

1 mom found this helpful
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