The simple question that needs to be asked is, “Does my child really need to have their own phone?” There is a huge difference between the word want and the word need. Peer pressure from other parents or other children should not enter into the decision.
We did not get a cell phone for any of our sons until they started driving.
Once the boys became involved with sports and other extra-curricular activities, there were admittedly times when it would have been more convenient had they had a phone so that we could have coordinated pick-ups and rendezvous times with them more easily, but at the time, the issue was more of giving into peer pressure than one of convenience. Without their own cell phones, however, they obviously had to plan their going to and coming from trip details with us parents in advance, and this was a definite benefit.
By the time that our daughter got into late junior high, the peer pressure was running pretty high for another phone. I can hear the argument even now, “But I’m the only one in the family (except for the dog) who does not have their own cell phone!” We decided to get her a cell phone several years earlier than for the boys for one simple reason– safety. Being involved with a lot of different after-school activities and being a daughter, we decided that a different guideline applied.
Later on during high school, we quickly learned that the number of cell phone text-messages sent per month by any given child was a pretty good measure of their budding love-life! When one child hit in excess of 4,500 text-messages in one month, (thank goodness our phone provider gave us unlimited text messages per month!) we knew that parental involvement was necessary.
So before you go out and buy your child his or her own cell phone, be honest with yourself and assess whether the child genuinely needs their own cell phone. Recognize that some children will withdraw further from you once they have their own phone available to them from their own bedroom at any time of the day. Watch out for the unintended consequences that always pop up with decisions that are not based upon sound reason.
And the cardinal rule as with any other discretionary expense like this, the child should be paying part of the bill every month rather than mom and dad just picking up 100% of the expense. (The form of payment does not always have to be money.)