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Bill Gates Reveals Minimum Age For Kids To Get A Cell Phone

Every wonder what the cell phone rules are at the homes of tech geniuses like Bill Gates? Wait no longer. 

In a recent interview with The Mirror, he said: 

“We don’t have cell phones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cell phones until they were 14, and they complained other kids got them earlier,” he said.

“We often set a time after which there is no screen time and, in their case, that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

“You’re always looking at how it can be used in a great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where it has gotten to excess.”

Bill Gates Family Cell Phone Rules

Image Credit: Melinda Gates 

The average age that kids get their first mobile phone in the United States is now 10.3 years old according to a report from Influence Central

As I’ve watched my own kids, I’ve seen friends who’ve had phones and Instagram accounts as early as 3rd grade, and those who’ve held off until middle school. There doesn’t seem to be a standard set of cell phone rules out there. 

I’m one of those moms that has made my kids wait. UNTIL 8TH GRADE. Can you imagine? I’m the worst mom in the world!?! 

Well, turns out, I’m not so bad. Bill Gates makes his kids wait until they are 14 years old, which by the way is the average age of an 8th grader. I feel vindicated (and really smart). 

So get over it kids! One of the smartest tech giants on this planet makes his kids wait too. 

My older kids are currently in 7th and 8th grade.  So far it’s been a benefit to have them wait until 8th grade. They’ve been able to look around at all of their friends staring at a screen on a Friday night (and be the one without a screen) and say to themselves (and everyone else) “Hey guys, this is pretty boring, let’s go do something!”.  

I also acknowledge that kids in middle school use texting as their primary form of communication, and that as much as I wish I could make my kids wait even longer to have a cell phone, it’s really a necessary part of their friend network.  But that also brings me to my next big phone rule. This one is new:

Phones are meant for communication. End of story.  We’re saying goodbye to all of the apps and bells and whistles. Phones are for communicating with people.  If they want to play a game, or get on social media or do something for ENTERTAINMENT, I’ve got an iPad loaded and ready for them to check out.  Why? So they can make a conscious decision to seek out entertainment, instead of having it at their finger tips as a reflex. 

The 14-year-old brain is still growing and developing and struggling with big life skills like SELF MODERATION.  Putting a fully loaded device in their hands and asking them to manage it is in my opinion just too much for this age.

What do you think? Please share in the comments and tell us what the cell phone rules are at your house? How are you handling technology with your kids?


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Comments (12)

  1. Heather 05/09/2017 at 9:23 pm

    My husband was a cop. He’s been part of cases where childrens’ lives have been saved because they had cell phones. He was also military and his daughter got one at eight so she could communicate with him instead of having to go through her mother. It is a personal choice, but because of his personal experience with what he has seen happen to children he feels they should have them at younger ages for safety purposes – without data, but to reach family and to be tracked if necessary.

  2. Amy louise 05/09/2017 at 6:50 pm

    Myself and my sister’s weren’t allowed a mobile phone until we went to college at 16 years old. I completely agree with this & believe that it was a positive thing. Plus up until we were 16 years old we were happy doing childhood things like playing out, going to after school activities, & spending time with family ect, not spending time glued to a phone texting & other things. I feel not being allowed a phone until 16 years old benefited me.

  3. Tiff 05/08/2017 at 8:06 am

    My kids are 17, 15, 13, 12…no phones… they deal…and are fine.

  4. Jeannine Victery 05/05/2017 at 12:11 pm

    Our middle child (my step-son) got a cell phone at age 6! But that was due to some extreme circumstances with his biological mother, who lives across the country; and it was a model specifically for young children, which I wish they still made (the Firefly)! Parents programmed in numbers the child was allowed to call, or take calls from; and the phone had a Mom button, a Dad button, a 9-1-1 button, and arrows to scroll through the list of approved #s…but no key pad. Our older kids (my sons, who didn’t have issues with their parents’ divorce) got texting (not smart) phones in middle school. They really did come in handy, say, when sports practices went late, ended early or were canceled. Now our youngest (age 9) wants a phone and insists “everyone” in 3rd grade has one. I don’t want to give him one until middle school, either. I think my husband would cave in, if left to his own devices.

    • Lori 05/08/2017 at 3:46 pm

      Must carriers have some sort of device similar to the firefly. Verizon has the Gizmo. It is a wrist watch so easier to keep up with for kids. They have a few different models. Ours can be programmed with 10 #s (+/-) he can call those 10 & only they can call him. They have a simpler model with only 4 #s and it has dedicated buttons for each person.

      Bonus is the service is less $$ each month than a cell phone…only $5!

      I have seen devices similar to this that require wifi, but the Gizmo has its own dedicated phone #.

  5. 05/04/2017 at 10:33 am

    Well my kids aren’t getting a cell phone until high school…

  6. Courtney 05/04/2017 at 7:25 am

    This is refreshing to read in the culture where it’s easy to feel that I’m one of the few moms who is not letting her kids have a phone anytime soon! (I have a 12 and almost 10 year old). The kids have iPads with some games on them and no free internet access. I let them iMessage a few people (their aunt, uncle, each other, grandma, mom and dad). And before bed we collect them and put the iPads in the kitchen for the night. We have a computer for when they need it for school, whatever, with a password on it so they can’t just get on whenever they want. I personally just don’t see much good that comes out of preteens/teens have acces to unlimited internet/apps/social media. I want my kids to know how to use technology but not to be ruled by it. I want them to be kids, and enjoy activities that aren’t always focused around a device. When they do get phones, it will be a few years, and not smartphones with access to social media/internet at their fingertips. Just my thoughts on what we have done/are doing. 🙂

  7. Kathryn May 05/04/2017 at 1:36 am

    I completely agree that generally, children who are pre-teen, don’t need Mobile phones because they are usually either with us or at a friends house, which has a landline! They are a fantastic asset when promoting independence and responsibility and as our daughter hits 13 this year, we have agreed she will be getting a not-so-latest phone, in order that as she spends more time out and away from us, she has the ability to contact necessary people when needed. Technology is inhibiting a persons ability to be creative and connect with the world around us. It definitely needs monitoring and we don’t allow our girl’s (10 and 12) on their laptops for gaming and surfing UTube clips, longer than 45minutes a night. The weekends is much more flexible. If we didn’t, our youngest would stay on for most of the day/evening and it is of no benefit to a growing mind and body. Entertainment can be found in so many other ways and you only get achildhood once. We also made the descision not to have normal TV, when the children hit 5ish. We do watch things via the computer which has a linking cable to a TV and a DVD. We therefore get to watch things as and when we want to so we choosethe entertainment and we aren’t bombarded by advertisement. The girl’s don’t miss out, in fact they are intrigued why other houses have to try and find something to watch out of the dictated programme menu.

  8. Name 05/03/2017 at 9:46 pm

    No phones until 16 and they pay the bill. Don’t like it? Too bad, my house, my rules. So far it has worked for us. We have 3 more to go, we’ll see how much they fight us, lol!

  9. Nancy 05/02/2017 at 7:50 pm

    I gave my son a flip phone to use only when he traveled by plane to his dad’s for visitation. He didn’t get his first smartphone until he started driving at 16. Yes, he whined, but I told him everywhere he was there was a phone….school, home, friends houses. He had no need for one…homework, use the computer at home or school. I am glad I waited as I haven’t seen his face since! Unless your child is alone (which they shouldn’t be) there is no way to justify letting them have one before they are driving or have no land line at home. Fitting in isn’t a reason.

  10. Jane Maynard 05/02/2017 at 12:15 pm

    YES YES YES to everything, and love your communication-only rule. amen!