From Tracie: Kids and Mobile Phone Safety

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kids and Mobile Phone Safety

Last week I attended a virtual Mobile Safety School with AT&T and The Motherhood. There was a lot of great information shared, and I'm going to pass some of it on to you.

AT&T conducted a study of 1,000 parents and 500 kids ages 8-17. You can see in the graph below that kids view phones differently based on their ages, and as they get older, the issues with kids having and using a cell phone change.

cell phone safety topics for kids by age category graph

What is the average age for kids to get a cell phone?
I found it interesting that 31% of kids age 8-11 have cell phones. I assumed this number would be higher, because it really does seem like every kid I see has a cell phone - and certainly every kid on tv is using one. But this isn't actually the case in the real world.

The average age for a kid to get a cell phone is 12.1
The average age for a kid to get a smart phone is 13.8

As the moms chatted during the virtual safety school, I noticed that most parents whose kids were in the 8-11 range and had cell phones were heavily involved in sports or after school activities. They viewed the phones as a way for their kids to be able to get in touch with them when they needed to be picked up, or to be able to let their parents know they arrived at a function safely.

When deciding if it is time to get your kid a cell phone, some of the important questions to consider are why do they need/want the phone, what is their level of responsibility, and is it something your family can afford.

The most important thing: No matter what age you decide to get a cell phone for your kid, talk about safety, set rules, and be consistent.

The study found that 66% of kids said they have rules on their phone usage. Yet 90% of kids said it is okay for their parents to set rules on phone usage.

Kids expect rules. Kids want rules. Even when they act like they don't; even when they indicate that their friends can do whatever they want and how unfair you are; even when they roll their eyes and talk about having the strictest parents in the world - kids want rules. Rules provide structure and security. It is 100% the job of parents to set rules for their kids, and to educate them about safety.

2 out of 5 kids with a mobile phone say their parents have not talked to them about staying safe when using the mobile phone.

The majority of parents aren't discussing phone safety with their kids, but they are worried about safety issues:
  • 89% are worried about texting and driving.
  • 67% are concerned about bullying text messages.
  • 69% are concerned about sexually suggestive messages.
  • 77% are worried about their kids receiving calls from unknown numbers.
These worries are not unfounded. Within the kids surveyed:
  • 53% of kids have been in a motor vehicle with someone who was texting and driving.
  • Over 1 in 5 have received a mean or bullying text message from another kid on their mobile phone.
  • Almost half (46%) have a friend who has received a message or picture that their parents would not have liked because it was too sexual.
  • 69% have answered a call from an unknown number.

My favorite tip from the mobile safety school: All phones are charged in the parent's bedroom at night. This is a great family rule for kids of varying ages, because it keeps them from staying up late texting their friends when they should be studying or sleeping.

As with all things parenting, one of the best ways to teach our kids is by modeling good behavior. If you don't want your kid to text during dinner, then make sure you are putting your phone away before sitting down at the table.


AT&T has a variety of resources to help parents learn about safety issues, and start conversations with their kids. You can access these resources at the mobile safety section of the AT&T website.

On November 9th, you can join in on an AT&T Mobile Safety Twitter Party at 2p ET. It will be a great chance to ask questions, share your stories, and possibly win a prize (they are giving away two Samsung Galaxy Tab™ 8.9 devices and three $50 Target gift cards during the party).

Do your kids have their own mobile phones? If so, have you set rules for phone usage, and talked to them about safety issues?

*Legal Stuff: I was provided a spot in a virtual Mobile Safety School session by AT&T and the Motherhood. In working with AT&T to discuss these issues, I was compensated for my time and expertise. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to say nice things.


  1. These are great points! My nine year old has begun pushing for a phone and we have set the bar at middle school as he will be walking to school then. I love the idea of keeping the phones in the parents room at night.

    1. I think middle school is a good age, especially with him walking to school by himself.

  2. I think I might start to envision a cell phone around 15, but maybe this will change when my kids get a little older.

    1. It is hard to put a set age on it, because every kid and every circumstance is different. As with a lot of parenting things, I think we will just know it is time when we get there.