National Consumers League

'CN U PIK ME UP FRM SOCCR, MOM?' – NCL survey examines pre-teens and cell phones


By John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud In addition to lunch money, friendship bracelets and the occasional frog for teacher’s desk, today’s pre-teens are just as likely to carry a cell phone in their backpacks.  According to a new survey released today by NCL, nearly 6 in 10 (56 percent) of parents of tweens have purchased a cell phone for their tween-aged (8-12) children. Why the focus on pre-teens?  According to a 2007 survey by C&R Research, 46 percent of children ages 9-11 had cell phones.  Today’s report shows that cell phone penetration rates among this demographic continues to climb. In response to this development, over the past twelve months, NCL has worked to provide parents of younger children the tools they need to make an informed buying decision.  Parents of pre-teens clearly have different priorities to consider regarding cell phone use than parents of teenagers.  In addition, more than 30 percent of American households now have cell phones as their only phones.  These market developments have left many parents scratching their heads as to how they deal with this brave new world of kids and phones. That’s why NCL has developed a parent’s guide to pre-teen cell phone use.  We also have tips for parents on how to take advantage of parental control technologies to manage kids’ cell phones.  Indeed, NCL’s survey found that among parents whose cell phones bills were higher than expected, investigating parental controls was the preferred method to control costs (62 percent), higher than setting a monthly budget (38 percent), cancelling the phone (23 percent) or switching to an unlimited service plan (22 percent). It’s never a good idea to go grocery shopping without a list (or on an empty stomach), because you’re likely to buy things you don’t really need.  The same principles are at work when it comes to buying a cell phone. A rough game plan developed before you start shopping can help you stay within budget and get a phone that fits for your kids. Our pre-teen cell phone guide has some suggested questions to ask yourself before you head in to the cell phone store and your child’s eyes get wide at the site of the latest iPhone or Android superphone. Armed with a good idea of what kind of phone works for your child and how much you want to spend, parents can (hopefully!) avoid sticker shock from pre-teen cell phone use. Now if they could just make a consumer guide for getting kids to eat their broccoli and stop picking on their kid brothers …