Should I Get My Tween a Cell Phone? Here’s the Average Age Kids Are Getting Theirs

If you’ve been hearing “But everyone else has a phone!”— read this.

By: Amanda Mushro

Related To:

Cape Town, South Africa, Students on their phones in class


Cape Town, South Africa, Students on their phones in class

Photo by: Westend61


If you’re considering giving your teen a cell phone, you probably have a pretty long list of pros and cons.

Pro: Your teen will have a way to contact you if there’s an emergency.

Con: Adding another cell phone will increase your monthly bill.

Pro: Your teen will have a way to connect with friends.

Con: Your teen can connect with people who aren’t their friends.

Deciding to give your child access to their own cell phone is a major family decision, and probably hotly debated in your home. If you are thinking about making the leap and giving your kid a phone, here are a few things to consider.

The Average

On average, kids are getting their own cell phones at 12 or 13 years old. However, other reports say that around 53% of 11 year olds have their own phones. See, it’s not “everyone.” Learning these average ages can help you make your overall decision, but there will still be more to discuss with your tween or teen. For instance, if your child participates in after-school activities, has an after-school job, or spends a good amount of time at home alone, you might want to give your child a cell phone at an earlier age. This way, they can communicate about pickups/drop offs—and of course, your child can reach you if there is an emergency.

Expect More Screen Time

Teens who have phones get a lot of screen time. How much? Well, according to Common Sense Census, the average American teen will spend 7 hours and 22 minutes per day on their screens, and this does not count the hours used for schoolwork or homework. Tweens, however, were on their screens a lot less, with an average of 4 hours and 44 minutes. Weekly screen time is a big deal for the entire family. If you are adding a new cell phone to your child’s daily routine (and usage is a concern), you may want to plan things out ahead of time and acknowledge how much screen time is acceptable.

Ways to Save Money

We definitely know that money doesn't grow on trees, but we’re not sure our kids understand that. So, if the cost of purchasing another phone doesn’t work with your budget or monthly bill, here are a few ways to save on your teen's phone.

  1. Don’t go for the newest and most expensive model. Plenty of phones still pack a lot of power without being the latest version. Shop around for more budget-friendly phones or used phones for your child. If you receive some complaints because your teen’s phone doesn't have all the bells and whistles, you can share how the family budget works and explain why a less expensive phone is the only option right now.
  2. Contact multiple carriers. In addition to shopping around for a phone, shop around for a monthly plan that works for your budget. Start with your current carrier and see what multi-line or family plans they offer. If that doesn't work for you, contact a few more carriers to see their pricing options for adding phones and switching services.
  3. Have your child contribute to the bill by completing chores or earning money from a part-time job. This allows your child to take ownership of their new responsibility and it can also ease the expense for you.

Safety First

Before your child sends their first text on a new phone, you’ll want to set some guidelines for their safety.

  1. Set cell phone usage standards quickly. Let your child know when they can and cannot use their phone. You can decide if there will be no phone in the bedroom at night (so they are sleeping instead of texting!), encourage them to follow the school’s rules about cell phones, and emphasize that they should never text while driving. Set these rules early and determine what will happen if they are broken.
  2. Talk to them about online safety and social media. Warn them about sending pictures and connecting with people they don’t know.
  3. Set expectations about if and when you will be looking at your teen or tween's phone. While you want to keep the lines of communication open, your kid needs to know that their phone activity is not private from you. So, if this means you will be using parental monitoring controls and checking their phones and social media, let them know what you expect to see—and not see.

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