More "tweens" have cell phones, parents are worried about costs

Jul 19, 2012 13:38:06Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO


A recent survey conducted by ORC International for the National Consumers League (NCL) found nearly six out of 10 parents of "tweens," children between 8 and 12 years old, have given their child a cell phone. Of these parents, about a quarter are dealing with higher phone bills than they expected.

Researchers surveyed 802 parents and found 60 percent of tweens received their first phone between the ages of 10 and 11. Another 20 percent were given their devices when they were between 8 and 9, and 15 percent were 12 when they got their first phone. When it comes to the reasoning behind the purchase, 84 percent of parents reported they gave their children phones for safety purposes, 73 percent said it was to track their child and 16 percent said they did so because their kid asked for a mobile device.

However, many parents were shocked when their first bill arrived. Parents who feel they are paying too much for their child's bill said they would consider a variety of options to deal with the issue. This included changing wireless carriers (62 percent), making a set plan with the child (38 percent), canceling the phone (23 percent) and switching to a prepaid unlimited plan (22 percent).

"Before the training wheels are coming off their bikes, many children are getting their first cell phones," said John Breyault, NCL's vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud. "Our survey underscores the fact that pre-teens are the new 'growth market' for the wireless industry. Given the increasingly young age at which kids get these devices, the multiplicity of choices in the cell phone market can be daunting for parents. That's why it is imperative that parents have the information necessary to make informed buying decisions when it comes to their pre-teens' first wireless devices."

Before parents purchase their child their first cell phone, they may want to consider a few factors. For instance, they should ask themselves why the child needs a phone, if it would be used just to stay in touch with parents and for emergency purposes, and if their child matures enough to handle their minutes, texting and data use. Many parents are also concerned with their child's mobile privacy. It is important for parents to weigh each consideration before making a decision to buy their kids a phone.