This is an important question that faces many parents. It is a polarizing issue and each side has many good points. Let me put out a disclaimer before I start that my teens have cell phones. We've experimented a bit with this issue and have come to some conclusions through the mistakes we have made. I hope to help other parents avoid the traps we fell into by stating our opinions, but note that they are opinions, and each family and child are different, maybe requiring differing strategies. Here are some points to consider when buying a child a cell phone.
1. There is an entitlement issue to be considered when buying a cell phone. We noticed that our children began to act more "privileged" and kind of spoiled when we just gave them a cell phone...so we switched to having them pay the bill themselves. That way they felt less entitled. We also take it away when they are not fulfilling their responsibilities at home.
2. Is your child old enough to handle it? Especially with internet being available, you have to look at your child's age and temperament to determine if they are ready. We gave one daughter a cell phone at age 13. She was too young. The internet can be addictive, and it was getting in the way of her doing her homework. She also stopped working on developing her talents and just played on her phone all the time. We took it away and tried it again at age 15. It worked better then and she was able to control herself.
3. Can you block pornography? We actually do not give our boys cell phones that have internet. It is just too tempting for them, and why make it harder for them than it already is?
4. Are they using it late into the night? You may need to take all cell phones away at a certain time each night to be sure they are not tempted to do this, as they need their sleep. Some children are not mature enough to do that themselves.
5. Are they becoming addicted to the games on there? It's something to watch out for. Minecraft has been particularly addictive in my family.
6. Check their texts regularly to be sure they are not misusing it for anything or being bullied.
These are just some issues to consider as you think about a cell phone. Hope it helps as you make this decision in your family.