When Do You Break Down and Get Your Tween a Phone?

When do you break down and get your tween a phone? I get asked that question a lot and while I don’t really consider myself to be a parenting expert, for some reason people think I have the answers. Truth is, I just have a lot of opinions and yes, I’ll share them with you now.

When Do You Break Down and Get Your Tween A Phone*Tween cutie provided by Kate @ My Mommy Brain.  She has 5 girls.  Pray for her?

Having a phone is a big responsibility. It’s a little piece of pricey technology that can get lost rather easily, so it’s important that your child’s mature enough to take on the responsibility before you make the decision to get your tween a phone. When Rosie was eleven and started dancing four nights a week and on Saturdays, we decided it was time to get her a phone, but it was basic and she could only call the numbers we programmed. She also didn’t have the ability to text or go on the internet. At that time, she only needed it for emergencies.

Last year at thirteen, we decided she was ready for an iPhone. She had been playing games on her Kindle and was already starting to kik her friends, so we figured she could handle the responsibility but the phone came with lots of rules. First, we got the passwords to everything. Second, we were allowed at any time to monitor her social media. Third, we didn’t want to buy a new phone so it had to stay in an Otterbox or Life Proof case (that’s presented itself to be a challenge as she likes all the cute flimsy cases).

Truth be told, Rosie’s almost fourteen and the phone is often a sore subject. It’s too easy for kids to bully these days. It’s hard to turn off and it can be dangerous with predators out there (and yes, they do find your kids.) So, here are a few things to consider before you break down and get your tween a phone.

• If your child is like ours and spends a great deal of time away from home, you may want to consider basic phone service for your tween. But honestly, they really don’t need all the other features.

• While you’re buying time before a smartphone purchase, monitor their iPad and Kindle use to get an idea of the apps their using and the kids they speak with on a regular basis. They can dip their toes into the world of social media pretty easily that way. Have open discussions about what’s right and wrong before you give them an unlimited data plan.

• Do your research on all the social media apps the kids are using. Discuss the pros and cons of each one with your child. Be open and honest. If you’re not sure, reach out to your village of moms and ask. We’re all more than happy to share.

• Once you decide they’re responsible enough for a phone, set ground rules. You need to have a time that the phone gets “checked in” so they can turn off. You also need to be sure to have all the passwords and access to their accounts.

• Openly discuss cyberbullying with your tween. Many kids experience bullying issues in grade school. They’re magnified once they can get online and even more when there’s a phone involved. Make sure they know how to identify these kind of behaviors before you get your tween a phone.

• Talk about sexting. Yes, I know you just gasped, but there are 12 year-olds sending topless pictures. Be realistic and discuss openly with your child why they never want to do it before they have access to the technology. And, be sure to set the rules for what happens if they do.

So, when do you break down and get your tween a phone? Honestly, that’s up to you. Hopefully, I’ve given you enough fodder to make a logical decision that works for your family. Just remember, once they’re introduced to the iPhone world, they’ll never want to go back.

Deb Clem-Buckert is a lifestyle and parenting blogger that lives in the Midwest. She’s an entrepreneur, Dance Mom, avid tennis player and dog lover and she’s been known to pin too many chicken recipes. Mom to Rosie, 13, Deb was Babble’s Top 100 Reader’s Choice Winner in 2012 in the parenting category. She has a collaborative book project coming out in January 2015. You can read her each week at http://www.debcb.com

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19 Responses to When Do You Break Down and Get Your Tween a Phone?

  1. Kate K says:

    Great tips! We went through this with my oldest two a couple of years ago and about to get my middle child a phone. Definitely agree about getting a basic phone with texting. For my girls I removed the internet and photo texting options just to be extra safe.

    PS That sure is one cutie-patootie model in the photo 😉

  2. Kendra says:

    These are some great tips! I remember being upset that my brother got a phone in 7th grade (I had to wait til 9th grade….big deal among siblings), until I realized that it was a convenience for me to be able to reach him when I had to bring him home after school. This was back in the day of flip-phones.

  3. Emily says:

    These are great tips! My son is 5 – so we have a few years to wait before we have this discussion.

  4. amber.m says:

    This age terrifies me! I’m scared to be the uncool mom but at the same time, I don’t want my kid to be the kid I saw riding his bike down the road while texting the other day! Kid totally wasn’t paying attention AT ALL! It was awful!

  5. Peter P says:

    My daughter decided to skip 7th grade this year and so no we have an 11 year old 8th grader, who wants to do 8th grader stuff… I’m considering getting her a phone.

    I’m not ready for this!

  6. Jenna says:

    My tween has a phone. When my oldest turned 12, her whole small group of friends got phones for Christmas. My ex and I agreed she could have one so she was not left out. My second oldest is almost 12 (November) and she got her first phone last week courtesy of her dad. I don’t make the usage rules entirely but have a say on what apps are used and can look through texts and have access to any social media with passwords. It’s tough to trust them be side of all that might happen but I’m doing the best I can.

  7. Emmy says:

    Awesome post. I know my husband and I will be having to make a decision about this before we know it. I am definitely leaning towards later rather than sooner as there is so much too it.

  8. Angela Hendricks says:

    I am dreading this day! When I get my kids a phone it’s going to be a basic flip phone just to make calls, no texts!

  9. Brittany Sachs says:

    Crazy how young some kids get phone nowadays! I got my first phone a few months before my 14th birthday. It was just a standard call and text phone!

  10. nikki Flannery says:

    A friend of mine got her son an iPhone and he’s only in 3 grade. I think that’s ridiculous.

  11. Renee Smith says:

    Our 13 year old has been asking for a phone for her next birthday. I personally don’t think she needs one until she starts driving and is out and about more. We have seen with our older children that they become obsessesed with their phone and it never leaves their hand. They no longer talk to people, but text. Very impersonal. Too much technology is not helping our childen in the social department!

  12. Kathy says:

    I agree that the privacy and sensitivity conversations about adult topics and bullying need to begin before a child gets a cell phone.

    It’s vital to have the passwords to all their devices and apps: don’t forget email accounts! I know a young girl who was solicited via email several years ago. This was not due to mobile technology!

    Bullying is a big hot-point right now. It’s widespread. Many people with disabilities get bullied regularly, because they are differently-abled. My son and I recently got sideways looks from a tween who was standing near us in a restaurant.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on this discussion topic!

  13. Nicole says:

    We just recently got our 11 year old a phone. She doesn’t have facebook so we don’t have to worry about that but definitely had to set limits on it or she would use it all day to text and play games.

  14. Sarah Browning says:

    I havent got Hannah one yet and she is 11. It is a big hard decision that we working out too

  15. Kristina P says:

    I got my teenager one when she was 11 but it was just a basic phone to keep in contact with her.

  16. Christina Z says:

    My daughter is 13 and I have been debating getting her a phone but think its going to be happening soon.

  17. Angel says:

    This was a tough decision for us, but we decided to get our daughter a phone at 10 because she was doing more activities afterschool and has a severe peanut allergy. We did turn off the Safari browser and my hubs added a browser that was blocked. It’s actually so annoying to search on that she just searches on our family computer or my tablet. 😉

  18. Diana says:

    What age truly depends on the family. For us, first phones have come about when they are starting to stay after school for activities that may end early, or run late. Unlike when I was in school, there is no bank of pay phones in the hallway for them to call home on. We start out with a “dumb” phone for a year, to make sure that they are responsible enough, and they get the smartphone when they enter middle school.

  19. Shannon Bowlin says:

    Our daughter is 14 and has been wanting a phone for awhile now so we told her to show us she is mature enough for one and by that I mean getting good grades and helping with household chores like…..Clean her room and keep it picked up, doing the dishes on the weekend and just showing us she is responsible enough. When we do get her one it is just going to be call and text. I think if a parent feels their young child(ren) need a phone it should be an emergency only phone with just a few emergency numbers and 911 on it and that’s it nothing more. I truly believe the only way small children need a phone is if the parent thinks they need it for safety. I was 17 when I got my first phone.

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