Nearly six out of 10 U.S. parents of children ages 8 to12 (a.k.a. "tweeners" or tweens) have provided those children with cell phones. And many parents are paying more than they expected to for phone service, according to the National Consumers League, which conducted a survey this past June that queried 802 parents.
The survey showed that the top reasons parents had for buying phones for this age group are safety (84 percent), tracking a child's after-school activities (73 percent), and that the child asked for one (16 percent.) As for what kinds of phones parents are buying for their tweens: A perhaps surprisingly low 4 percent got a basic phone with no Web or texting ability. About half of tweens received a basic phone with texting; 20 percent got a basic phone with texting and Web access. And a lucky 27 percent got a smart phone.
No surprise is that 82 percent of parents said that the price of the cell phone service was an important part of their decision. And 92 percent of parents said they spend less than $75 a month on their tween's cell phone service.
But this study also found that parents in a third of households earning under $50,000—and a quarter of households overall—were taken by surprise at how much the tweens' phones are costing them. Some solutions being explored by parents include checking into parental controls offered by carriers to control costs, setting monthly budgets for kids, getting rid of the phone altogether, or switching to prepaid or postpaid unlimited plans.
In a finding that might surprise a lot of parents who are considering getting a phone for their 8-to-12-year-olds, only 16 percent of parents reported conflicts with their kids over phone use. And fewer than one in 10 parents reported that the child's phone use intruded on family time or distracted from school work. Only 3 percent of parents reported improper use of a cell phone, as in sexting or cyberbullying.
Finally, 89 percent of parents of tweens who bought cell phones for their child have no regrets.
Survey: Majority of 'tweeners' now have cell phones, with many parents concerned about cost [National Consumers League]
If you're searching for the best phone for your tween or yourself, check our free mobile-phone buying guide at Consumer Reports.org. And be sure to read our story, "Buying a child's first cell phone: 5 reasons to think prepaid" for more guidance.