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At what age should I give my child his own cell phone?

When my son turned 10 this month he asked for a smartphone and a service plan. “Hmm,” I mused. “I’ll have to think about that. What about …” and before I could complete my sentence, he was way ahead of me. “A real phone, not a Firefly phone!” He was referring to Firefly Mobile, a kind of kid-friendly phone that can come with a pre-paid service — more about that in a minute. It’s unavoidable, I now have to wrestle with the question: How do I know if my kid is ready for his own device? And if he is, how do I decide what it should be?

This may already be a moot point for some parents — your child is already running around with the tablet or phone they got for Christmas. But if it’s not too late, here are a few questions you should ask yourself first.

1. Does your child NEED a cell phone to keep in touch with you in case of emergencies? Every family situation is different, but the older kids get, the more independence they take on — and the more helpful it is for them to have a direct line to you. A 6-year-old, on the other hand, is probably surrounded by responsible caretakers 24/7. No need for a phone of their own in that case.