What Age Do Kids Get Cell Phone? Smart pHone?

Updated on July 25, 2013
G.G. asks from Aurora, IL
36 answers

my son is going into 6th grade and yes he is in sports etc. He loves his ipod and his music and has it with him at most times. I am trying to figure out at what age kids get smart phones. I almost think i would perfer him to have one device to carry his music and phone, so likely I am looking at an iphone. I hate to get him a phone at 12 and have a 2 year contract only to find out that I should have bought him a smart phone to begin with.

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answers from Washington DC on

limited use cellphones- as soon as they're old enough to go places without you.
smart phones? as soon as they can pay for the data plan.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Danville on

I am with suz t on this.

My kiddos each had a pay as you go phone from about the age of 12.

When THEY can pay...I am happy for them to get something more!

***makes me wish for the days of pay phones...WAY back....and the price of a call was a dime****

Now I feel old...*sigh*...



9 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Got my daughter a basic cell phone for her 15th birthday. She got an iPhone when she could pay for the phone and the bill herself.

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

Pay as you go phone. I agree with Mom2Many- the unlimited internet access is a concern for me, personally.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would go ahead and get him a smartphone. My oldest (13 now) got his first phone at age 9. Very basic - calling, very little texting. That was because of sports and going to friends homes, etc. When he kept up with it, he wanted a smartphone 2 years later. He earned the money for that phone and then for Christmas he wanted an Iphone. I know for school this last year (7th grade) there were many times the teachers would let the kids use their phones to research something during class. It really helped alot. What I do to keep some control is I have his password and I check it anytime I want / feel the need to. I have had other family members tell me I was invading his privacy, that was his phone and I had no right, etc. But I feel as his mom that it is my job to keep a watch over this stuff. I do trust him alot but he is still a kid. So far there is nothing that has caused me any concerns. Also - we use a prepaid plan through Virgin Mobile so I don't have to worry about overages.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My kids got phones when they were in high school. Basic phones with calls and text. They got "smart" phones when they could pay the bills themselves.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

The problem, in my opinion, with a smartphone at 12 is the availability of unlimited access to internet. With ipod's they need to be in a WiFi setting, this restricts their access to the internet. Does any 12 year old really need that?

A phone at this stage of the game is about being able to reach you as the parent, and maybe texting a friend or two, but again, it should be all about the parent and the child having access to one another.

I'd also skip the contract at this age and go with a pay as you go phone, it's a lot easier to cancel should the child do something with the phone, whether that's behave inappropriately or loose it. If by 14 he has proven himself responsible, then consider an upgrade on the phone ( I still believe 14 is to young).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The opinions here vary because many people have strong views pro and con for cell phones for children.

I believe it depends on your lifestyle, your budget, your opinion.

Our daughter (now 18) got her first basic phone in late 4th grade around 10 yrs old. MANY 5th graders had them when she did.

We personally chose to allow a phone so she could stay in better touch with us and for safety factor.

When the IPhones were first introduced, she did get one. Our family all 3 all have used IPhones since they came out and we upgrade as needed.

The plan is not cheap... For our family (granted, our phones are under our company for business reasons) our bill runs around $230 a month for 3 newer IPhones, unlimited data, text and internet. Our bill is a little higher because we do use these as our business and home phones, and we also carry international coverage. There are plans out there which are cheaper than our plan.

That said, I am glad she has her phone. She drove to high school which was 20 minutes away, was on the cheer squad and often had late night bus rides home after games and then has to drive home. She was also in cheer in middle school with some late nights as well as orchestra. It just helped us stay in touch so we knew what to expect, when/where to pick her up, etc.

Good luck with either choice.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think it would be good to start him off with just fairly basic phone so he can call and text you.

If he can act responsible with it and keep up with etc.. Then in the future.. you can consider a smartphone.

Parents have to know their own children to make these choices.
You know what would work best for you and your child.

Times are changing so quickly that some parents make these broad statements about how they plan on raising their children or how they already raised their children in the past.. But you have the front seat. You will see what your family needs.

There was a mom on here recently asking about an iphone for her child. She was worried about the ability to be online with the ipnone and the content etc. She herself did not know how to use one. I suggested, SHE first get an iphone.. maybe own it for a while.. Then IF she felt like it was something her child needed, and deserved and could be responsible with, she could pass along her phone and purchase an even newer one for herself.

I recall thinking cell phones should not be in the hands of young children. Until my sister and her and her husband divorced. Their children were still in elementary school and were now going to be living in 2 homes week to week or day to day.

The kids needed the cell phones. Schedules changed, Pick ups, drop offs, the kids needed to inform the other parent about things immediately.. They NEEDED cell phones and very early on, learned how to use them correctly and responsibly. Now that they are in High School and one off to college. Cell phones have always been a part of their lives. They know how to respect them, how to behave on them and what they should not be doing with them.. They were supervised for over a decade, with parental guidance.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't have a smart phone, so neither does my 15yo. He got a basic phone when he started running cross country in the 7th grade so that he could call me when he needed to be picked up from practice, or when practice times changed, etc.

He never complains or even asks for a smart phone.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

I would get him a bare bones absolute basic phone.

If he wants a fancy one, he can earn and save his money to buy it himself. He will take MUCH better care of it.

Also... Quite a few of the basic phones do have the capability to carry music. My last phone had 150 songs on it, and it was just a regular flip phone with no Internet. I had to save the songs to a card from the computer to use them. Just make sure you get him a card with more memory.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

An iPhone or Smart phone, is not needed by a kid... UNLESS you want them to do texting/video stuff and going online w/their phone.
It is not, a "necessity" ya know.
So then, just get a basic, phone.
As you said, he CAN use his iPod and has one.
And smart phones cost more AND you need a data plan too, and that costs more, too.

Just get him a "go" phone, which AT&T has, for example.
You are not stuck to a 2 year contract with these types of phones. It is monthly and for so many minutes or money, whatever you put into it each month. I have that. And its fine. I don't need a smart phone, phone. I just need a basic phone. My daughter has the SAME phone as me. Pay as you go. She doesn't need to text/do videos etc. via a phone. It is just a phone, to call us or for us to call her. It is not a SOCIAL life.... to have a phone.
At HOME... is where my kids can then, use their iPods etc. or the iPad.
They don't need a PHONE to do that.

My daughter is going to 6th grade too.
And again, she just has a basic phone. Non-contract, "go" phone from AT&T. And I have that same one. Its fine.

My daughter's classmates, many of them do have iPhones or smart phones. And good grief, their parents don't even know what they do on it or all the texting they do on it and whatnot. Its ridiculous.
MANY of the kids, just use it as entertainment. And for social media. And for taking photos of themselves or others and then sending it to other people's phones. And they text like crazy.
So KNOW that.
And some kids, ALSO have on their phones, the phone numbers of PARENTS... and those parents don't even know, that those kids have their phone numbers. And some kids are not nice, in their texting and they create so much, drama.
And some kids, give out their phone numbers to their cell phones.. .ALL the time to ANYONE who asks for it. They have no... common sense. They just think, it is fun and a social life.

In addition to a phone, you have to have RULES about it, for your son.
My daughter is good about all the rules we have per her phone. She tells me what all the other kids, do with their iPhones/smart phones.... and their parents don't know.
So keep that in mind.

Kids, do not need, smart phones or iPhones.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm with Suz on this one as well.
My husband and I use the limited, pre-paid phone plans for our cells and have had no problems with them, as well as no unexpected fees.

Consider, too, that getting a smartphone will be like going from your son having a 'walkman' to having an entire computer with internet access wherever, whenever he chooses. I know how well kids cope with that in the K-8 middle school... not so well. He's young. You do want to have access to what he is seeing on the computer as he won't have such good discretion yet.

Wait until he's older and can pay for his own smartphone plan. Please believe me, we are adults using these limited phones (we have a landline as well) and have had no problems getting around and staying in touch!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

There are no circumstances under which a 12 year old NEEDS an iphone. If you want him to have a cell, then get him a prepaid cell that he ONLY takes with him when you feel he may need it. So, maybe not to school each and every day? Then, he can keep his ipod with his music with him like he does not, and just add a simple phone on occasion.

That way, IF something happens to the phone (and with an active 12 year old boy anything can happen! lol), it's not an expensive smartphone with a hefty data plan bill that you're having to replace to cancel the contract on.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Phones are expensive and the plans are even more...A middle school student does not need a phone. I can't see that a student needs a phone before he/she is driving. Even then it is a judement call....if the student is driving than perhaps he/she ought to have a job to help pay for that phone.

I see way too many children out there who take everything for granted and it is because everything was handed to them. They expect expensive internet access, smartphone, data plans, expensive cable TV, etc and then wonder why they can't afford everything themselves just out of college - so they move back in with mom or dad to maintain their lifestyle!! Start now, phones cost money. If you want one than you need to earn that money. He is almost old enough to start babysitting or mowing grass, etc to earn it.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

My oldest granddaughter (12, just finished sixth grade) was allowed a phone this spring. It is pretty basic. If it should get lost, damaged, thrown somewhere, etc., it won't be a great loss. She can call, text, and play with ring tones (she invented a yowling cats one last week, and it will give anyone a headache who has to listen to it). She's happy with it and so far it hasn't disappeared.

Smart phones aren't smart enough to stick with their owners through thick and thin, or sort through what's appropriate (according to Mom and Dad, not buddies) and what isn't.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My daughter was 16/17 when she got her cell phone - that was 10 years ago....

My oldest son was 10 when he got his. He was doing Tae Kwon Do and Baseball and my youngest son was doing other activities so I couldn't be in two places at once. He now has my "old" phone - Motorola Driod RAZOR.

My youngest son was going to get a cell phone this past weekend and decided he didn't want one...so to the absolute joy of my husband - we are waiting! For me? doesn't matter either way.

an iPhone is a "smart" phone. He can download music, search the internet and place/receive calls. I/we are NOT Apple fans so we don't have iPods, iPads, iPhones....so I can't really tell you much about them. My girlfriend just gave up her blackberry for an iPhone 5S and she loves it. My sister has an iPhone 4S and love/hates it.

You need to take him into the store and have him look at the phones - talk with the sales rep and find out what will work for him.

I have a Galazy 4S. I LOVE IT.

Does he NEED the phone? Do you need to be able to contact him? If he doesn't NEED it and is happy with his iPod - then don't spend the money...if he has activities that he does without you - then go to the store and do your research!!

good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

My now 19 year old daughter got her first phone going into middle school and got an iPhone when they came out, I pay for it. For me, it was about as optional as electricity and gas. I want to be able to communicate with her and she can communicate with us. My daughter is extremely responsible, never lost a phone in her softball bag or at school. Even now with her going into her third year of college I know that we can reach each other.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

I got a phone when I went into 6th grade because I played sports && cheered so I was constantly out of town && it was very useful && I didn't have to ask my friends for their phones constantly to call my parents. I would go ahead && get a smart phone. It has a lot of benefits for you && him.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

My son got his phone the Christmas that he was 12. It was a huge hit. We activated it and had it turned on so that we could call it from inside the box. He was in middle school and did not stay after school. However, he is our oldest child and we wanted him to accept more responsibility with his 2 sisters and with our homelife in general. This choice really showed him that we thought he was getting older and more mature at a time when cars, girls and curfews were a far-off thought. Have never regretted it. He has music and a keyboard but I admit that we held back on data.... we have 3 computers and felt he could use the internet at home or at school.

Good Luck! Phones are almost tween milestones now. Just don't get too high of a grade phone first. Make him work with a "beater" first and take the upgrade for yourself :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My daughter is almost 11, going into the 6th grade. She has an iPhone 4. We bought it for her when her last phone went out of contract - we had bought her a "dumb" phone so she could call home from summer camp, and to be honest, all of us were frustrated with it. To me, if you're going to have a phone, it should be a smart phone. She had already shown us she could be responsible for her things (the "dumb" phone made it 2 years, and she never lost or broke it, and she takes good care of her iPod and Kindle), so we felt like she would take good care of her iPhone. All of her friends have them, too, so it works out well for all of them to be able to FaceTime, text, e-mail each other, etc.

My only advice is to make sure you get unlimited talk and text. It's amazing how much kids can talk and text, it really is!

ETA: Okay, one more thing. Make sure YOU are the only one with your child's iCloud/iTunes password. That way they can't download apps without your permission. My daughter is not allowed to have Instagram, Snapchat, etc for obvious reasons. :) Also, she is not allowed to have a passcode on the phone, and I pick it up randomly at least once per week, and cross-reference to our bill, so I know that no texts have been deleted. She knows this, and understands that this is for her protection.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

We plan on visiting with my granddaughter when she's 10 about a phone. If she is responsible and able to take care of expensive items then she would likely get an android smart phone.

BUT taking car of her kitty responsibilities is probably going to keep her from getting even a $10 per month dial only phone because feeding the cat, cleaning up after the cat, and watering the cat are things that keep the cat alive and healthy. She can't seem to do that.

When she has exhibited that she is able to comprehend that items/animals/etc....are responsibilities that she should do without having to ever be reminded to do, then she's responsible enough to care for a more expensive phone.

I have an android phone and I can do music on it. I don't know how but my husband has tons of music on his. He downloaded the songs from his computer.

I would go the least expensive way, he's only 11 and is active. Phones get broken, cracked, bounced around, and they stop working. It's sometimes just an accident and not a fault of someone's care too. Then it can be total neglect.

Spend the least you can and get him something that will be suitable for his needs.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Research the parental controls you can put on things. He doesn't need internet access. He doesn't need a lot of free range phoning and texting. This is to contact you and to listen to music. Iphones are expensive and not cheap to replace. The monthly service cost is also high. If he has an ipod, you might be better off getting him a cheap phone without a ton of features that works for what he needs. And you can get pay-as-you-go phones at Target so your not tied into a contract for a kid's phone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

My boys both have an iPod Touch. They are 10 and 12 and have had them for 2 years. They have limits on screen time and only get their iPods during the weekend after chores.

We'll wait on phones, regardless the type, until they are in high school and driving. Even with sports, they just don't need them right now.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Age 7 my SD got a dumb phone with 4 buttons on it so she could call her mom or dad or emergency. Because she was bounced back and forth between houses, it was good for her to be able to call her mom or dad at any time.

At age 9 she got a texting phone and she started texting. A few of her friends also had texting phones, but they hardly ever text.

At age 11 she got a touch screen phone (not a smart phone, but a touch screen) and she was texting a lot since her friends all have phones.

She has an iPod Touch that does everything a smartphone does when connected to wifi. I don't see the need for her to have a smartphone, she doesn't need to be connected to the internet everywhere she goes, and she doesn't need GPS.

None of her friends have smartphones but they do have iPod Touches. They can text from their ipods, do FaceTime chat, email and play games. If they want to text, they do it from their phones too.

We have restrictions on the phone, she can only make and receive calls during certain hours, and we can shut the service down where she can only receive and make calls to us if she misbehaves.

I don't see a need for anything else. If my SD wants a smartphone, she can get one when she can pay for the whole thing herself plus the monthly contract. So I'm guessing when she gets a job!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

His iPod or touch will be fine for music. Both my boys were really into music. Regular phone will be good for another 2 yrs. my kids got a phone in middle school because of extra circulars but an iPhone wasn't till senior yr of HS. It also makes you a target of theft. By the time they got an iPhone they had proved their ability to be responsible. Lots of ability for trouble with a smart phone in middle school.
I have to say, your child is a boy. I'm going to be sextist and say, they have a lot of problems keeping up with stuff. Especially in middle school. To put the big burden of keeping up with an expensive phone is too much pressure for them. Think football lockeroom. Think changing clothes. Think being pushed in a pool or dropped in the toilet. Even with regular phones, we told the kids if they lost it, it would be a "go" phone from Walmart till their contract was up.
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

My kid's got their phones on their 13th Birthday and we do not have Smart Phones. My kid's aren't overly into music so not having a smart phone is not a issue for them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter is 12. She doesn't have ANY phone.
My son just got his learner's permit, and he also does not have ANY phone.

I would say that the age to get them one is whenever you want to do it. I never had one until I was a pregnant parent of a 2 year old and had to be on the road by myself with the 2 yr old. My husband didn't have one even then, for a year or so...
I know, times have changed. But I really think that we parents tend to buy into the hype that kids need a phone, when really, they don't NEED one. They just want one.
It's a pretty expensive want, when you consider there is an ongoing monthly fee, and they can use them to spend money. How ready are you to teach your 12 year old that his wants = his needs?

(and I do understand that in some situations, it makes parents feel safer that their child has a phone, particularly in bad divorce situations, but this particular post doesn't mention any specific reason that safety is an issue. If there is sports, then there is a coach/adult).
Oh, but they do both have ipods. And they can and do use them to text/facetime and go online, in addition to listening to music. They just have to be connected to WiFi. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My kids got phones when they started middles school, 6th grade, because at that point they were taking the bus and sometimes going to the library or just hanging out in town with their friends after school.
They had basic phones, just talk and text.
My older two got smart phones when they were 16 and 17.
My 14 year old is BEGGING for one right now but her contract is not up for another year and there is no way I'm going to spend $500 out of pocket for something she is likely to lose or break within a few months (she is really scatterbrained and clumsy, unfortunately.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We gave our 7 year old son our OLD iPhone, it doesn't work for calling, but he uses it for an iPod, games, and taking pictures. He has had it since he was 6 and uses it all the time and takes it with him most places - he loves having HIS own music and takes pictures all the time. When he is a little older we will put him on our calling plan, but in the meantime, he gets a ton of use out of the old iPhone. I would recommend a smart phone as it includes so much more than just a phone.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My kids are 10 and 13 and both of them have the iphone 4. We got it for them this year because my husband and I were due to change carriers and they go to their dads every other weekend. The phone's themselves were free, but we pay just under $300 per month for all 4 of us. My kids only other electronic is their DSi's. I like that there is heavy parental controls on the phones. You can take off internet access completely on the phones. I think it depends on your family situation and the kid. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

If he has an iPod than he can use the internet and text and download whatever he wants - so as some people mentioned - he already has the ability to use all of that technology. If you are willing to spend the extra $$ every month for the smart phone and it's data charge, then just get the one device. If money is an issue, than just get a phone. But I would think it would be easier to carry just one device. Especially for a boy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

My daughter is going into 6th grade and received her phone in 4th grade. My inlaws gave her one. It's a basic phone and text. She wants an iphone like all her friends. I'm not sure what inlaws will do in Aug. when the contract runs out. They may choose to give her one. Hubby and I knew when she went to middle school (6-8) she would have a phone for safety.

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answers from Los Angeles on

This is a good question. My older two kids got basic phones (there were no smart phones) when they went in to 7th grade. The phone was whatever the free choice was, and cost me $10 more per month. We've promised my youngest the same thing. She's going in to 6th and is already lobbying for a phone now. We've told her she has to wait another year. But she's lobbying for an iPhone. They do have a FREE version with contract. But it will cost me $40 more per month! Really?! I'm not sure that I'm willing to do that. Plus then she has access to everything all the time - at school, etc. I don't think I'm ready for that. Ugh! Technology doesn't always make our life easier....sometimes it's more complicated.



answers from Denver on

First, I'd suggest getting the cheapest pay-as-you-go phone you can. If at the end of three months or six months, your son still has the phone, it's undamaged, and he has handled the minutes carefully, then you can consider other options. If he loses it, or it's cracked, or he can't handle the responsibility, you will know. If you try to call him and he never answers, you'll know. He's not ready. Give him a contract with at least three months on it. By contract, I don't mean a contract with a provider, I mean a contract between him and you. And also consider where he plays sports and where he hangs out. Are there unprotected lockers? Are things stolen or carelessly strewn about? An iPhone is an attractive target for thieves.

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