Raising North Dakota: The “right” age for a cell phone

Cell phones – they’re all around us in the hands of toddlers to teens and beyond.
But what is the “right” age to give your child a cell phone?
Alysia Huck explains.

Maybe it’s because summer is nearing, or maybe it’s just this day and age, but I’ve seen a lot of online chatter, and I’ve talked to several parents about the ‘right’ age to give our kids a cell phone.
While there’s no magic number, there are LOT’S of factors to consider.
That’s this week’s Raising North Dakota

Celeste Dockstader and her husband gave their daughter a cell phone at the age of 6 for the sole purpose of communicating when she was visiting her mom, but problems quickly appeared.

“She was texting people because you know how you get a number and some people that used to text that number will text it, so she was having conversations with them,” exclaimed Celeste Dockstader, mom. (Alysia Huck, “At what age was this?”) This was at age 8, yeah.”

In addition to the random texting, Dockstader discovered some concerning internet searches on her daughter’s phone. 
The Dockstader’s took her phone away and tried a tablet for communication, but faced the same issues, and that’s when they decided to go old school.

“Tablet thing didn’t work, so we did away with that, and then got her walkie talkies. She would get to school and walkie talkie me ‘Hey, I made it to school,’ and I think she was embarrassed to carry a walkie talkie but after the cell phone thing you know,” Dockstader said. “She ended up breaking it one day, and she got lost, and it was the scariest thing for me as a mother to ask where is my child, I can’t get a hold of her, so I felt guilty because she didn’t have a phone to contact me.”

Given that incident, Dockstader and her husband decided to give their daughter a basic flip phone, but being a clever kid, she found a way to access what was off limits.

“She was going onto the web on her flip phone even though it was super slow and doing the basics of Facebook on it. Pretty crazy how advanced kids are nowadays,” said Dockstader 

So what is a parent to do? The Dockstader’s daughter is now 12, and they wanted to give her some freedom and communicate with her, so they went back to their first choice, the smartphone, with a whole new approach.

“We have an iPhone that’s just a family phone at our house, and it’s literally just for her to stay in contact with us if she’s at a friends house she’s allowed to take it but then she has to turn it back in with us, or when she wants to call her mom, don’t want to stop that line of communication, or call friends, she gets permission,” explained Dockstader.

As the Dockstader’s discovered, there are many options to consider such as smartwatch phones, basic flip phones, or the smartphone.
So it really boils down to each individual child, what level of technology your child is ready for, and your family’s needs.

So while there is no real “right” age to get your kid a cell phone, recent studies show that the “new norm” for early cell phone use is around first grade.
However, only 22% of these younger kids reported using cell phones, compared with 60% of tweens and 84% of teens. 

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