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20-40-60 Etiquette---When can I have a cell phone?


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: What do you think is the appropriate age for children to have cell phones?


CALLIE'S ANSWER: There is no longer an "appropriate" age. It is when you feel comfortable giving your child a cell phone. There are many positives as well as negatives to a cell phone.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: I'll give you the answer that I gave to each of my kids, only slightly joking, when they asked for one when they were younger - "you will get a cell phone when you need a cell phone, and I decide when you need one." Cell phones are expensive and I didn't want to add any lines until I absolutely felt I had to. But my kids really needed one in middle school as they began to manage more of their schedules and that became the easiest way to handle last-minute meetings and sitter pickup changes. It has been handy for them to have one and a fun way for us to stay connected when we aren't together. You might start with a nonsmart phone (for starters, no one would ever steal it) to see how they manage the responsibility.

HELEN'S ANSWER: If your child is respectful, has good grades and is a responsible person and will take care of the phone and you can afford the fees associated with it, then discuss it with your child.

He/she can probably help set up rules and a time frame for a phone. If you need to maintain contact with your child after school, then he/she may need a phone a little earlier than planned.

It seems like seventh or eighth grade might be a good time for a phone. Should it be an iPhone? That is up to you and your family, but I suggest that you all talk about it and about the responsibilities that go along with expensive phones. This also might be time to talk about what happens if the phone is misused or misplaced.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Alan Herzberger, NewsOK Digital Managing Editor: That's a tough call for a parent. It really depends on the child (and the parent). Is the child responsible? Have they proven they can care for important items? Do they follow the rules and guidelines in other areas? Is the parent prepared to monitor activity. I wouldn't be surprised if a parent gets a cell phone for a child as young as 10 or when they are in middle school age. If it works for your family and the parents have steps to make sure the phone is being used appropriately, then I'd suggest there isn't necessarily an 'inappropriate' age.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›