Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Solo Mom: Cell phone for a four-year-old? Not so fast

Posted October 22, 2013

Stacy Lamb, organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle

My four-year-old (yes, you read that right), asked me the other day when he could get his own phone.

I was driving, and almost had to pull over to pick my chin up off the floor of the car. He’s FOUR. His sister knows better than to ask for her own phone at her age, twice his, even though some of her friends brag about having them.

I remember spending hours on the phone with friends as a teenager, and I remember when my parents got a second line in the house because of it (perhaps I’m dating myself here, talking about a land line phone). But that was high school, maybe middle school. I’m not sure why any kid in fourth grade needs their own cell phone. And certainly not my preschooler! Ha!

I guess smartphones are much cooler than the land lines of my younger days, which functioned as, well, a phone, and nothing more. But it’s rare that my kids use my phone as anything more than a phone anyway, and even then their attention span is short for talking on it.

They speak with family members and an occasional friend. I have just begun making my daughter call her friends herself to RSVP to parties and the like. She has to learn how to make a polite call, after all.

But at this age, she hardly remembers to bring her lunchbox and water bottle home from school. I don’t need to worry about much more expensive things getting lost in the shuffle. (Some days it’s a miracle I make it home from work with all of my possessions!)

Once I managed to stifle the laugh and put my fallen jaw back together, I asked the little guy why he wanted his own phone now. He said “I need to call (a friend of mine) and say thank you for the present.” OK, at least he had good reason for wanting to USE the phone! I must be doing something right.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think much of getting my kids their own phone until they are at least old enough to stay home alone (you know, around age 30 – ha ha). I just don’t see a reason for it. I’d love to hear other parents’ thoughts on the subject.

Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She is an active member and former organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.


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  • missjohnston04 Oct 24, 2013

    My daughter got a trac phone in June of 2012 (she was 7) to use for a week when she was being dropped off by one grandparent and picked up by another at dance practice She did well with is, so we decided to let her keep it. She only uses it in the afternoons to call me to pick her up from the bus stop. I work 5 minutes from her stop, but they have a 20-30 minute window of when they will be there. It helps with responsibility and my nerves.

  • RGMTRocks Oct 24, 2013

    My 16 year old just wrote a fabulous essay all about how kids are so connected to and obsessed with their phones that they don't learn the social skills and the art of conversation as 'our parents did'. She talked about how she and others have a hard time with the 'art of conversation' because everything is done by text, snapchat and such so they don't really know how to just talk to each other. Food for thought........

  • dikduh Oct 23, 2013

    I totally agree .... Young children do NOT need cell phones! And I especially agree with Mom2two's response. Kids are obsessed with cell phones (even my own children ... maybe just one). It drives me crazy to be out to lunch/dinner and watch people at other tables totally ignoring each other, but focused on their phones. I often wonder why they bothered to agree to meet in the first place. "Get Connected" to real people .... face to face!

  • mcorson2 Oct 23, 2013

    I gave my daughter a (basic phone) no iphone, i did it because she is in middle school and uses it only if something happens at school (god forbid) but u never know so she can call or text and that is it no other service will come until she is older.

  • Love my boys Oct 23, 2013

    My ex-husband purchased a smartphone for my 11 year old. I see no point in that. I don't agree with it and refuse to pay for it. He's 11 - he has no need for it. My middle child has asked when he can have one and I told him when he turns 16, starts driving and gets a job so he can pay for it. And they will know the struggle of a flip phone!

  • tarditi Oct 23, 2013

    We have let our kids have our old smartphones once we've moved on to new devices. The old smart phones are wifi, but have no carrier service (no calls, no data plan, etc.) but can still keep apps up-to-date. They are basically cheap, tiny tablets at that point. The rules of use and screen time still apply.

  • busyb97 Oct 23, 2013

    I am sure he was thinking only of the fact that he can play games on it. My boys are 10 and 12 and that is whst They think. But they too have asked, and I say that when they get to that point in their lives where they are away from us for lengths of time or other trusted adults/teachers who dont have a phone, then we would talk. But for now, they are always around one of us or one of their friends' parents/family. Plus I tell them, they are not cheap. Can't hurt to work a little financial lesson in there too, right?


  • bmw11 Oct 23, 2013

    I didnt have a phone until I started driving. My son will be around that same age when he gets one. Everyone is too obsessed with their phones these days.

  • snowl Oct 23, 2013

    This discussion has already been repeated too many times with other bloggers on this site. Ultimately it's all up to each parent what they want to do. I'm just saying.

  • Mom2two Oct 22, 2013

    My daughters each got a phone when they entered high school. Before that, they were never without adult supervision, so they truly had no need. Further, ESPECIALLY middle school girls, way to often use their phones to bully other girls. As an educator, I see kids obsessed with their phones, and it is difficult to keep their attention when the phone is present. Give kids phones when it is a NEED not a WANT. Learning delayed gratification is an important life skill.