Getting a cell phone for a raising 6th grader

Hello, I am sure this isn't a new question...but an updated answer is sought. We are finally admitting to ourselves that we need to get our almost 6th grader a phone (maybe a used iPhone). We don't want her to have access to much else other than the texting function, phone calls, podcasts, and limited internet. No social media of any kind, no Tiktok, etc. Of course, this is a super slippery slope because just with access to the internet, she will have access to many of these things (including YouTube). So, knowing many families out there have dealt with this for a number of years now, what hard rules/limits/philosophies do you have that you have found that work in your families? What tech solutions/apps/parental controls software would you recommend? We know having an ongoing dialogue about all this with our daughter is super important...we just want to *try* to start off on the right foot. Thanks for any advice you have.

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My rising 8th grader got a phone in 5th grade -- a very unexciting flip phone. That's what he still has, and so far, so good. He complains and finds it embarrassing, but basically, I've told him that it's not up for discussion until high school (and even then, maybe not). The flip phone allows phone calls and texts (he finds it very clumsy for texting, and that's actually the main source of his complaints), and that's all he needs for now. I am 100% certain he could not handle the inevitable distractions of having any kind of internet ability. Also, he doesn't go to King, but when I went to a King info session when we were preparing for the move to middle school, the principal begged the parents *not* to give their kids smart phones, saying that they just were not ready -- and my observations of my own kid make me think she's right. Moreover, the flip phone I got him is (hilariously) military grade and has survived everything he has dished out -- including being flung off the top of our moving car when he put it up there while we were loading the car and then forgot about it. We found it later that day, in the gutter, no worse for the wear. No smart phone could do that!

Problem buying a used phone is you don't know the condition of the battery or the phone.  The cost for used phone and battery replacement is more than buying a new phone.  Check with you carrier to see if they have deals where you get an iPhone for "free".  AT&T and Verizon were both doing that.  You might want to take a look at GoogleFi, Google's cell phone service.  Your daughter could be on a plan for $17/mo.  My tech friends say GoogleFi is working well for them.

Our son got an iPhone in 8th grade. We have all our iPhones set up for Family Sharing in Apple. That allows you to set up phones of minors such that they need permission from one of the adults before they can install an app. If our son wanted a new (free) app, my husband and I would get a notification on our phones. One of us had to approve the request before our son could install it on his phone. Family sharing also lets you share paid for music and apps.

Hi. I replied to a similar question a month ago! My child is now a successful college student and has had some form of smart phone since middle school. You need no restrictions or contracts or controls. Get your child a current iPhone that can connect to your iCloud. Then, you will be sharing photos, find my, apps, and contacts. Let your child learn to self-regulate first before worrying about controls and restrictions.

The only problem we had (3 kids) is discovering one of them staying up all night on the phone watching videos of other kids playing video games. So you might want to have a rule about where the phone is at night. Everybody in the house could park their phone in the same place overnight for charging.  Middle school is when kids start to be more independent so I think it's not helpful for their maturity and growth to have too short a leash. 

I will suggest rethinking "needing" to get her a phone. I have a rising 6th grade girl and no way is she getting her own phone. She has monitored/limited access to a wifi-only Iphone at home, and her school device during the school year. There is no need to give her a phone, with all the sense of entitlement that implies; it will be very hard to limit access. She has friends same age who are online all hours of the day and night (seriously, 11pm, midnight...) as we can see on the text threads. It ends up taking over their waking hours. If she needs contact for afterschool pickup, you can get her a smart watch or similar, which is really really curtailed access.

I also have a son who is a rising 8th grader, and he got a flip phone last summer (between 6th and 7th grade). Amazing how little he uses it, when we thought he "needed" it.

I understand your hesitation about getting your child a cell phone. In the end you will find it is the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Middle schoolers become more independent. They go places with friends after school. You want to be able to get in touch with them. Especially important for you is to learn to text because that is the main way they communicate. The boundaries I had were: do not ever use it during the school day, never at the dinner table, leave it downstairs when you go to bed, finish your homework before too much chatting. Not all kids become obsessive phone users. Your child is growing up, now is a good time to help them negotiate issues like managing phone use.

The one thing I’m really glad I did is set a strict rule about plugging the phone in outside their bedrooms at night. A lot of kids are on their phones very late into the night even on school nights —I can hear my kids’ phone pinging when they’ve forgotten to silence them— and I don’t think it’s healthy.