Ask Rene: Should I Buy A Cell Phone For My 8 Year Old Daughter?

About the Author: Rene Syler from

Dear Rene,

What is going on with kids today? Or should I say parents?! Why does an 8-year-old need to have a cell phone?

My daughter Ellie continues to ask me for one because several of her classmates have phones. I just don’t understand, why would an 8-year-old need one?

When I ask Ellie why she needs a cell phone? Her response is to call her friends or use in case she’s in trouble.

I tell her if there’s an emergency the school will contact her father or myself and we’ll go and get her. Right now, Ellie’s day consists of a trip to school and then back home. As for her friends, she sees them at school and they all seem to want to know why Ellie does not have a phone.

I think eight is too young for a child to have a cell phone and I don’t understand why a parent would choose to buy their child one. Ellie loses her glasses on a regular basis, I can’t imagine how many cell phones she’ll lose if she had one.

Rene, what do you think? Should I buy my 8-year-old a cell phone and if not now, when’s a good age to give a child a cell phone?


Jennifer, Texas

Hi Jennifer:

I feel your pain, oh how I feel your pain.  Okay so here’s where I stand with regard to cell phones. Since it’s rare to find a pay phone on the street (I mean one that’s NOT in a museum) I do think they have become something of a necessary evil, and in some cases, not even that evil. So here’s what I would think about and do if I were you.

REMEMBER THIS WILL ACTUALLY BENEFIT YOU! Take a quick scan of some public places and you’ll see kids with a monkey or some other furry animal on their back. The tail is a cleverly disguised leash, for lack of a better term, allowing parents to keep them close by.

Now, I want you to think of a cell phone as a high tech version of that. You will be able to reach Ellie at all times. Granted that’s not many places given her relatively small social circle but it is something to think about. My 13-year-old son does not have a cell phone and I have to tell you it’s an enormous pain in MY backside. Why? Because unlike Ellie, he’s mobile. He goes home with friends and forgets to call and tell me where he is. If he had a cell, I could reach him and put my mind at ease.

CHECK OUT YOUR OPTIONS: If you’re worried about exorbitant cellphone bills (and you should be) carefully look at your options. A phone with prepaid minutes is one way to keep the cost down. This was the first phone we got Casey and I really liked it. Called the Firefly, it has dedicated Mom and Dad keys and the option to make emergency calls as well as a whole host of other features that keep mom and dad in control. They’re pretty reasonably priced too.

TALK TO ELLIE ABOUT HER COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOR: In my home, not to be mistaken for communist Russia, there needs to be a damn good reason for my kids to get what it is they are asking for. They need to be able to articulate it and at no time should the phrase, “Well, everyone has one” escape their lips. There’s no faster way to derail the train than for momma to hear that one.  Competitive behavior, in children and adults, is bad. It does nothing but serve to take your eye off the ball and start running someone else’s race instead of your own. If the goal is to do what works for you, then you need to follow the rules that are applicable to your life, not someone else’s.  Do Ellie a favor and starting teaching that life lesson early on.

So as you can see I am pro-cell phone for kids (with proper precautions, based on new information re: cell phone and cancer risk). HOWEVER, I agree with you, eight years old is too young.  There is not one waking moment in the day where you don’t know Ellie’s whereabouts. Then there’s the issue of responsibility. Cell phones are small and easy to lose but the difference between this and her glasses is that she needs her glasses to see. You could instill a “one and done” rule with the phone, if she loses it, she doesn’t get another one.

Good luck, mommy, with whatever you decide to do!

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