The most important question to ask yourself is if your child actually needs a cell phone. If your child is pushing to get a cell phone simply because friends at school have one, then there is no reason to purchase one. If however, the child is often in situations where a cell phone might be an important aid, then it becomes a reasonable purchase. Such situations could include times when the child must frequently travel alone, after school activities that require the child to call a parent to be picked up and the like.
Perhaps you want them to have access to a phone for that rainy-day emergency. You may want them to have a phone because they regularly need to call a parent or caregiver from a location where there isn’t a landline; finally, you may simply want to be able to keep tabs on your child. These are the main reasons a child would be given a cell phone.
Once you have decided to purchase a cell phone for your child, be sure to put limitations on its usage. A lot of people choose a calling card option (so bills do not spiral out of control), remove the SMS feature and data plan, block certain numbers, or apply a combination of all of these. Work out what you want your child to use the cell phone for and then talk to the company about how best to enforce the limitations.
Certainly, it is beneficial to sit down with your child to discuss your expectations and limitations. You’ll need to make clear to your child why you are giving them a phone, when you expect them to use it (and not use it), how much money you are willing to pay for each month, and more. Setting the ground rules when the phone is first turned on will, hopefully, save you from grief and miscommunication later.