When Should Kids Get Smartphones?

Do middle schoolers need cell phones to connect with their peers? The short answer is no, but it’s usually not that simple.

I have three teenagers in my house right now, including two teenage daughters in high school (one a sophomore and one a junior). None of my teens have cellphones.

Q: Our 12-year-old entered junior high this year and is one of only about 3 kids in his grade that I know does NOT have a cell phone. We do not think he needs one and he has finally got off our back about it although it was on his wish list for permission to buy his own. I am thinking he does not NEED this until high school. It is frustrating for him when his friends do not have land lines and we arrange get togethers through my cell phone text with parents, which I would prefer he do himself. What age do you think a cell phone is more acceptable?

A: I have three teenagers in my house right now, including two teenage daughters in high school (one a sophomore and one a junior). None of my teens have cellphones. We do have a landline, and we also have a house flip-phone that our kids have access too when needed (much like the old beater of a car they’re learning to drive on). Each of my daughters bought herself an iPod the summer before she entered ninth grade. With an iPod, they can text with their friends, check and post on Instagram and watch endless YouTube videos…as long as they have WiFi. Since nearly every place they go has WiFi, it’s been a win-win situation for everyone.

I share my story to let you know that no, not everyone has a cell phone. My 13-year-old son, who also entered middle school this year, has been asking for a phone too, but I’m standing firm. He doesn’t need it, as his school just went 1-to-1 with laptops and phones are banned from middle school during school hours. He whines occasionally, but since he’s not proven to me that he can handle the responsibility of a laptop, he’s definitely not ready to handle the responsibility of a phone. We will likely make him buy his own iPod in a few years (and pray Apple keeps making them!).

So you have options. You could get him a prepaid flip phone (yes, they still make those!) or make him buy his own flip phone. With such a dumb phone, all he can do is text with his friends, and it will solve the problem of your setting up get-togethers but not give him ready access to the Internet before he’s mature enough to handle it.

Good luck, and remember—he does NOT need one. He wants one. You can solve this without going all-in on a smartphone for a 12 year old.

 

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sarah@sarahhamaker.com
(703) 691-1676

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