If the figures from a Nielson study are correct, 35 percent of children in the U.S. between the ages of 8 to 12 years, already own cell phones. C & R Research released figures showing that 60 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 own cell phones, and that 84 percent of teenagers aged 15-18 have their own cell phone. The most common reasons parents give for providing their children and teens with their own cell phone are in order to be in contact if there's a change in plans (baseball practice is cancelled and they need to be picked up from the playing field) or if the children are in an emergency situation (they're lost or the car ran out of gas). According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 74 percent of Americans claim that they have used their cell phone in an emergency situation.

Although cell phones do come in handy in an emergency, they also present the disadvantages of high phone bills, possible health risks from electromagnetic radiation, temptation for your teenager to text during classes, the ability to connect to the Internet and view inappropriate sites, sleep deficits, and psychological dependence, with the constant calls and texts received and sent actually interfering with the owner's daily schedule. If you set down rules about when and how the cell phone can be used, some of these risks can be minimized. For example, if the rule is that the cell phone is turned off at a certain time at night and left in the kitchen, at least your teenager won't be awakened by friends calling or texting. If you pay a fixed, monthly fee and your teen pays for all calls over a certain number of minutes, this will cut down on cell phone costs. Or, you can use a prepaid plan and your teenager will have to learn to budget the minutes available.

When it comes down to it, however, there is no "right" age to give a teenager a cell phone. You have to look at your own family situation and gauge how responsible your teenager is.