Ten year olds don’t need cellphones so much for texting their bff’s, but rather to get a taste of responsibility. When my oldest son and later my daughter both turned 10, they each got cellphones for their birthdays. They were the first, or close to it, in their peer groups to get this coveted status symbol. It has been 18 months since my oldest son turned 10 and he still only has family members and one or two friends’ phone numbers programmed into his cheap LG phone. I pay his phone bill every month and I can see that he doesn’t use it for much of anything besides checking in with Mom and Dad. So why get it?
My wife and I decided that giving them their own cellphone would give them something to be responsible for at an appropriate age. The cellphone is a nice in-between source of responsibility– it requires the child to keep track of it, keep it charged, and stay in touch with home when they are out. Also, we went with a provider that understood this and had one of their representatives spend time on the phone familiarizing my son with the phone’s features and billing rather than simply dealing with me– the adult account holder. The provider — Credo Mobile — also donates part of each monthly bill to charity. My son then familiarized himself with the various charities that he is now indirectly supporting. I’ve heard him insert into conversations with friends that he supports this-charity and that-charity. It is a point of pride that endangered species are a teensy bit less endangered because he has a cell.
So when I think through the pros and cons of getting a kid a communication device of their own, I think the pride and sense of ownership my son gets out of the phone is more than worth the cost of signing another two-year contract and paying the bill on a phone that he doesn’t really need all that much. And perhaps the biggest benefit of all, my children have had a taste of responsibility before they ask for the car keys in five, short years.