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Is Your Tween Ready For Cell Phone Freedom?

written by: Robin Hawkins • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

If the tween in your life does not have a cell phone, then the odds are great that they have been asking you for one. Cell phones with parental controls may be something to consider for parents who are not sure if their tween is ready for complete cell phone freedom.

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    Questions to Consider

    Girl on cell phone When you are trying to decide whether or not your tween is ready for their own cell phone, you may want to ask yourself a few of the following questions:

    • Is your child becoming more involved in extracurricular activities?
    • Does your child spend a lot of time in places other than home?
    • Does your child walk home from school by themselves?
    • Do you find yourself needing to coordinate transportation times with your child more often?
    • Does your child show responsibility with his or her belongings?

    It is often during the tween years that parents begin to give their child a little more freedom, which in turn, can result in a little more time away from home. If this is the case in your household, then providing your tween with a cell phone or access to a cell phone can be helpful especially in cases where your child will need to reach you for a ride home from school or extracurricular activities and after spending time at a friend’s house or other activities.

    Because the tween years are often the first time that children begin participating in activities outside the home, having access to a cell phone can also help to provide a level of reassurance and safety for parents and tweens. Parents are able to reach their child at any time and vice versa.

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    Easing into Cell Phones

    Cell phone technology is growing all the time. However, our kids are usually only seeing the commercials for the latest and greatest in Smartphone technology that is on the market. Providing a cell phone with all the bells and whistles may not be the most practical option for your tween nor the most feasible one for you and your budget. Having a cell phone does not have to be an all or nothing thing. You can ease your tween into having a limited amount cell phone freedom. Here are some cost saving ideas to consider:

    • Check into a pay-as-you-go cell phone. Many wireless carriers have cell phone options in which you pay only for the time or days that you use the phone. This can eliminate the ongoing monthly fees associated with cell phone plans. Some pay-as-you-go cell phones can be purchased along with a pre-paid phone card. This option requires no monthly plan with a cell phone carrier and you can add minutes to your phone by continuing to purchase the pre-paid phone cards or by adding minutes to your phone online.
    • Consider a family plan. If you already have a cell phone for yourself, check into upgrading to a family plan and adding a line through the carrier’s family plan option. As long as the phone you choose for your tween does not require a data package, you may able to add a line to this plan and share the minutes for a small fee.

    With either of these options, your tween does not necessarily need to have full access to the cell phone. You can allow them to take the phone along with them when leaving home, when they are involved in extra-curricular activities, or any time when you deem is reasonable for your tween to have access to a cell phone.

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    Parental Controls

    Most mainstream cell phone carriers offer a variety of parental controls and family friendly features. Some of the more common content and usage control features allow parents to:

    • Locate your child through GPS technology
    • Filter what content can be accessed and downloaded
    • Block all Internet downloads
    • Block certain numbers
    • Disable the phone at certain times of the day
    • Regulate the number of minutes or text messages that can be sent or received
    • Receive alerts when certain words are used in text messaging
    • Monitor video and picture downloads

    Depending on the cell phone carrier, these parental controls may come with a monthly charge but can oftentimes result in saving money on each monthly bill by controlling the amount of data that is used as well as provide for a safer cell phone and web browsing experience for your tween.

    Nine to twelve-year-olds are becoming increasingly more involved in activities outside of the home. If you are still on the fence as to whether or not your tween is ready for his or her own cell phone, rest assured that this does not need to be an all or nothing decision. This age can be a good time to investigate what different cell phone options exist and ease them into cell phone freedom through the use of cell phones with parental controls.


  • Ferran, Lee, "Parental Controls for Cell Phones," ABC Good Morning America (December 26, 2008),
  • Image: SXC Stock photo: important call (Image ID: 1170300) under royalty free license
  • Author unknown, "Tweens and Cell Phones: Is YOUR Tween Ready," Savvy Parents Safe Kids (February 22, 2011),