Do Kids Really Need Cell Phones?

My cell phone has a gingham cover“The Family Plan” marketing strategy for cell phone users is impressive.  Cell phone companies make it sound like each person in your entire family must have a cell phone.  My kids would probably be thrilled if we (their not-smart-in-the-least-bit-parents) bought into this marketing-mayhem, but we just can’t.  This question has yet to be answered:

Do kids really need cell phones?

They may.  But they may not.  Consider the following statements parents give regarding cell phones for their kids.

My kids have to have a cell phone so they’ll be safe.

If your kid is getting kidnapped, abducted, or attacked having a cell phone in their procession is not going to keep this from happening.  You may feel better or more in control but that alone is not a reason to have one. GPS on a phone means you’re not the only one who can track your kid.  And, can you say “helicopter parent?”  What happened to trusting your kids?  How about kids letting parents know where they are or where they’re going?  What about communication, expectation, and trust?  How about making a plan and sticking to it?  NOT providing a cell phone can present the opportunity to develop these skills.

I need to be able to reach my kids and know where they are at all times.

If your child puts their cell phone down somewhere, and you can’t get a hold of them, do you know where they are?  Kids get busy doing things and don’t have their phones on or with them, and what happens then?  How about if they just don’t answer the phone?  What if they answer and tell you they are somewhere they are not?  In most cases, there’s a phone around (at the minimum their friends have one…).  Can kids call from school?  From a friend’s house?  Do you call and check in with the parents of where your kids are going?

My kids need to text their friends.

Really.  They need to text?  Everything in moderation.  Kids also need to have face to face communication skills.  Are you making sure that is happening between your kids and their friends?  What about kids and other adults?  What about phone skills?  Can your kids answer a phone call and take a message with pen and paper?  Are they learning good phone skills?  Face-to-face communication and good phone skills are still required in the working world.

Why shouldn’t they have a cell phone?

Phones and phone service cost money. Children can learn responsibility and planning ahead if they’re not so reliant on the ever-present cell phone.  What if they lose their phone?  What if they drop it and it breaks?  What if there’s no coverage?  We need to teach kids to conduct themselves regardless of technology. We all survived childhood without these so-called “necessities” and are still able to use our thumbs for texting and searching the internet on very, small screens.

Kids need to learn independence.  They need to grow up, leave home, and live in the world, without parents hovering around.  They need to learn basic communication skills and not be told by companies with  savvy marketing campaigns how their lives should be run.  Kids should have to, at the very least, contribute financially, toward the privilege of having a cell phone.  With privilege, comes responsibility. That’s one lesson I hope we can all agree on.

What do you think?  Do your kids have cell phones?  Do your kids need them?

Go Gingham related links:

Parenting: Children’s Allowances
Social Networking and Parents Behaving Badly
Piano Lessons – they’re an indulgence at our house – time and money
Time tested family rules – who knew these would work?
Take the night off and let your kids cook dinner every week
Our weekly ritual – Technology Free Sundays

9 thoughts on “Do Kids Really Need Cell Phones?

  1. My kids didn’t get cell phones until they were in college and that was mainly because I wanted them to have them when traveling back and forth to school. I think a lot of kids get cell phones way too early. Personally, I wanted to know who was calling my kids and you don’t know that if they have a cell phone.


  2. Both my kids have cell phones. They are free on my plan through 2012. Ironically, it was harder to get my 16 year old daughter to use hers, than my 13 year old son. They do come in handy when plans change, but I realize the validity of all your points. I have a much greater issue with Facebook and that has challenged us as a family far more than cell phones.


  3. My kids are grown and gone. So this is wisdom looking back. I could not see why to get them cell phones. So the kids had the option of paying for one out of their own allowances. Which one did and one didn’t. As they got into high school and were driving, I did think about it in terms of their safety and possibly being in situations in which they needed to get out (as in alcohol being at a party and they needed an out). I trusted my kids and was fortunate that I ended up with two good kids even to this day. However, I also was a single mom when they were in high school and could not have afforded it. I didn’t have one, but that was before they had become so ubiquitous.


  4. We got a cell phone for my older son when he started taking public transportation for high school. He is now out and about on his own, and REALLY like being able to call him to check on where he is and what’s going on.

    It’s almost more about us calling him than it is about him calling us.



  5. My kids are grown now. When they each turned 13-14 or so we gave them a cell phone. They first got a prepaid with about an hour’s worth of minutes on it. Then when they got older 17-18 they got a cell phone on our contract. None of our kids ever ended up with huge bills, but I saw many kids, especially girls, end up sticking their parents with $800+ bills for overages and downloads. Those $15 prepaid phones were wonderful to prevent that, yet we could call them just to “check up” on their them if we wanted to, and we didn’t have to worry that they were having car trouble or stayed late at church or whatever. They always had a way to contact us. I would highly suggest that people keep their old cellphones, and simply turn them into a prepaid for the kids rather than putting them on the contract.


  6. I love all of these comments…especially the value in looking back at what worked. Thank you for taking the time to comment. More coming on this topic!


  7. I am an educator and have seen a decline in student learning and scores due to the fact that teenagers tend to be too technical….texting and talking on cell phones during school and late into the night and early morning; instant research (what ever happen to reading a book and looking for valid information at your local library); everything for them needs to be immediate…..and it preoccupies their minds. I will not let my daughter have a cell phone until she is out of high school, on her own, and can pay for her own cell phone bill. When she travels for sports or goes out with friends, she will be allowed to take either my phone or her father’s, but she doesn’t need a cell phone to distract her while she is at school or home trying to learn or driving. I loved your thoughts about cell phones and am so happy to know that I am not the only parent that has said “no”!!!!


  8. My kids are 11 and 7 and there has been some pressure (from other parents!) to get them cell phones. My wife and I personally do not see the need for young children to have cell phones but can see many reasons why they shouldn’t. We may soon get one for our middle schooler but it will be pre-paid and with limited features (no texting). It will be for emergencies only at this stage. My wife and I pay a set fee once a year and use very basic phones. We never go over our pre-paid minutes and would like to instill similar values in our children. Why pay extra for something that is truly unnecessary?


  9. I understand your point. However, I don’t think we can disregard the assistance that the usage of cell phone among children in enhancing their safety and in securing the peace of mind of their parents. The key to spare the children from abusing the use of this device is to teach them how to be responsible in handing it and to provide them a cell phone with simple and basic features. One good example of this phone is the Just5 cell phone. Another thing that is good about this cell phone is that it is equipped with an emergency response system, too.


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