Questions to ask before getting your tween a cell phone

This is the second article in a week-long series on tween cell phone usage.

The questions of if and when to purchase a cell phone for your tween do not have easy answers.  A website run by the American Academy of Pediatricts,, answers the question by saying, "There really is no 'right' age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond.  Each tween and each family is so different that the decision can be made only on a case-by-case basis, despite my requests that it just be added to the vaccination list.

There is some help out there, though. In the report it released on tween cell phone usage, the National Consumers Leaguet included a list of questions for families to use when deciding whether to purchase a tween a cell phone and when shopping for a phone.  The questions are below, with the Tween Us additions in parenthesis.

  • Why does your child need a cell phone? (Tween Us version: Chances are, your tween wants a phone, but do you as a parent want your child to have a phone. Is it for their benefit, or yours? Have you made this clear to the tween?)
  • Will the phone be used primarily to stay in touch with parents and for emergency use? Or will your child be using the phone for entertainment or to communicate with friends? (Tween Us version: Is this for safety, or is this a toy?)
  • How much do you want to spend per month on service? (Tween Us version: Parents - ask yourself this question, but instead of asking the question to your tween,  announce your answer to your tween. Follow up with the question of who will pay if there are overage charges?) Remember, nearly a quarter of households spend more than they anticipated on tween cell phone expenses.
  • How much do you want to spend on the initial purchase of the cell phone itself? (Tween Us version: How much will your tween be contributing to the purchase of the phone itself? How will replacement costs be handled?)
  • Is your tween mature enough to keep their phone, texting and data uage within plan limits? (Tween Us version: Does your tween abide by the screen time limits you've already set?  In my house, that translates to asking if I have said "I already asked you to turn that off" for in the past day or so.)
  • Is your tween mature enough to use the phone responsibly and avoid viewing or sending inappropriate content? (Tween Us version: Has your tween already been busted for looking at or just knowing more sexual content than she/he should? I know of 10 year olds whose parents are aware that they have viewed porn after the rest of the family went to bed.  If that was my tween, there would be no cell phone discussion.)
  • What is your tween’s school’s policy on cell phones in school? (Tween Us version: Are you aware that if your teacher or principal have any involvement with this phone due to your usage, you will no longer have it?)
  • Does your tween have a habit of losing things or can he or she handle the responsibility of caring for a phone? (Tween Us version: Has the tween successfully kept track of the same pair of sunglasses for more than a week?  What valuable items has the tween successfully maintained in his/her possession? Anything? Bueller?)

Are there any questions not on this list that you think need to be asked prior to purchasing a cell phone for a tween?

Tomorrow: Prepaid cell phones for tweens


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  • My almost 12 yr old son asked me for a cellphone every week since he was 9. My husband and I finally got Android phones and gave him one of our old flip phones. We pay $10/month and his calls are restricted. He used it constantly for the first few weeks. He would even call us on his phone from our basement. Now, he has completely lost interest in it. He really wants a Smartphone which ain't gonna happen any time soon. I am going to cancel his phone line because he never uses. It's like everything else in his life; he loses interest after a few weeks.

  • Thanks for sharing, Leslie. Did you anticipate that he would lose interest or did that surprise you after his three year campaign to get a cell phone?

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