Aug 4, 2023

Is a Cell Phone a Necessary Back to School Supply?

Is a Cell Phone a Necessary Back to School Supply?

With the start of a new school year just around the corner, parents everywhere are hitting back to school sales to save money and wondering what kind of back to school supplies they need to get so their kids are ready to go back to class. One major item on the mind of many parents is - does my back to school shopping need to include the purchase of a cell phone for my student? Do I need to buy my child a cell phone with school supplies? After all, cell phones seem like an essential part of life these days! In this post, we'll explore the important question - Is a Cell Phone an Essential Back to School Supply?

 Whether a cellphone is a must have school supply for your kid when school starts depends on various factors, including their age, the school's policies, and your specific circumstances.

Cheerful young dad and son, both with dark hair, sitting on the sofa watching something on a cell phone.

Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision

It's a no brainer to decide your child needs paper, pencils, a pencil sharpener, glue sticks, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a few three ring binders, and other accessories to go back to start the school year. That's the basic shopping list, after all. But a cell phone presents its own considerations. Here are some things to think about as you decide:

1.      Age and Maturity: Consider your child's age and maturity level. Really little kids may not need a cellphone for school, while older children may benefit from having one for communication and emergencies.

2.      School Policies: Check with the school to understand their policies regarding cellphones. Many schools allow students to bring cellphones but other school districts may have specific rules on when and how they can be used during school hours. Many teachers also have policies about cellphones in their classroom. Check on those as well.

3.      Communication Needs: Evaluate your child's communication needs. If they need to contact you or other family members a significant amount for after-school arrangements or emergencies, a cellphone can be beneficial.

4.      Safety and Emergencies: A cellphone can provide a sense of security, as your child can reach you quickly in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.

Cheerful mom and little daughter sitting on a gray sofa and FaceTiming family.

5.      Independence and Responsibility: Having a cellphone can teach your child responsibility, time management, and decision-making skills. However, it's essential to set clear guidelines on its usage.

6.      Alternatives: If you're not comfortable providing a cellphone, consider other options such as a basic phone with limited features or a GPS tracker device for emergencies.

7.      Distractions: Cellphones can be distracting during school hours, so ensure your child understands the importance of using it responsibly and not during class time.

8.      Peer Pressure: Consider whether your child is likely to face peer pressure or feel left out if they don't have a cellphone like their classmates.

Happy family of three leaning against a tree and taking a selfie.


Ultimately, the decision should align with your family's values, your child's needs, and the school's policies. If you decide to provide your child with a cellphone, it's essential to establish clear rules and guidelines for its usage and ensure they understand the responsibilities that come with having one. Then add it to your shopping list.

What should I look for when purchasing a cellphone for my kid?

When purchasing a cellphone for your child, there are several factors to consider to ensure it meets their needs while also providing safety and age-appropriate features. Here's what you should look for:

1.      Age-Appropriate Features: Choose a phone with age-appropriate features and functions. For younger kids, a basic phone with limited capabilities may be sufficient, while older kids may need a smartphone with more advanced features.

2.      Durability: Look for a phone that is durable and able to withstand potential drops and rough handling by kids.

Cheerful family of four sitting on the hood of a car and smiling for a selfie.

3.      Parental Controls: Consider a phone that offers robust parental control options. Parental control features can help you manage screen time, app usage, and restrict access to inappropriate internet content.

4.      Battery Life: Ensure the phone has decent battery life, especially if your kid will be away from home for extended periods.

5.      Size and Weight: The phone should be comfortable for your kid to hold and use. Consider a compact and lightweight device.

6.      Security and Privacy: Prioritize phones that have built-in security features, regular software updates, and privacy settings.

7.      Emergency Features: Some phones come with dedicated emergency buttons or features that allow your child to quickly call for help in emergencies.

8.      Network Compatibility: Ensure the phone is compatible with your chosen network provider and offers good coverage in your area.

9.      Camera Quality: If your kid enjoys photography or video calls, consider a phone with a decent camera.

10.  Price: Set a budget and choose a phone that fits within your price range.

11.  Warranty and Customer Support: Check the warranty and customer support options offered with the phone to ensure you have recourse if any issues arise.

12.  Reviews and Ratings: Read reviews and ratings from other parents to get insights into the phone's performance and user experience.

Happy young dad and daughter, both in orange tee shirts, snapping a selfie in the backyard.


Remember to discuss the phone's usage guidelines and rules with your child, emphasizing responsible and safe usage. Parental involvement and open communication are crucial in ensuring your child uses their cellphone responsibly.

 What are some good educational apps for my kid's cell phone?

There are many excellent educational apps available for kids that can enhance their learning experience.

Elementary School Students

Here are some popular and highly regarded educational apps for children:

1.      ABCmouse: ABCmouse offers a comprehensive curriculum for kids aged 2 to grade 8, covering subjects like reading, math, science, art, and more. It includes interactive games, puzzles, and activities designed to make learning fun.

2.      Khan Academy Kids: Khan Academy Kids provides engaging and interactive learning activities for children aged 2 to 7. It covers the basics of early literacy, math, problem-solving, and social-emotional development.

3.      Duolingo: Duolingo is a language learning app suitable for older kids and teens. It offers courses in various languages, making language learning entertaining and effective.

4.      Endless Alphabet: Endless Alphabet introduces kids to the alphabet and vocabulary through fun and interactive puzzles with colorful characters.

Happy mom and young son sitting on a sofa and looking at both a tablet and a smart phone.

5.      Toca Boca Apps: Toca Boca offers a collection of imaginative and creative apps that encourage kids to explore and use their imagination in various scenarios.

6.      Sago Mini Apps: Sago Mini apps cater to younger kids with cute characters and engaging activities that promote early learning and creativity.

7.      Stack the States: Stack the States helps kids learn about the United States' geography, capitals, flags, and other facts through interactive gameplay.

8.      ScratchJr: ScratchJr is an introductory programming app that allows kids to create their own interactive stories and games using visual coding blocks.

9.      Math Bingo: Math Bingo turns math practice into a fun game, helping kids improve their math skills while earning rewards.

10.  NASA App for Kids: The NASA App for Kids provides space-related educational content, including information about space missions, images, and videos.

11.  Science360: Science360 offers a wide range of science and engineering videos and images that can spark curiosity and interest in various scientific topics.

12.  Star Walk Kids: Star Walk Kids introduces kids to astronomy and the night sky, providing interactive stargazing experiences.


Before downloading any app, ensure it is age-appropriate and aligns with your child's educational goals. Always supervise your child's use of technology and engage in discussions about what they are learning from the apps.

Middle School Students 

For middle schoolers, there are several excellent educational apps that cover various subjects and can support their learning and development.

Here are some popular educational apps geared towards middle schoolers:

1.     Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers a wide range of subjects, including math, science, history, and more. It provides video lessons, interactive exercises, and quizzes to help students grasp challenging concepts.

2.     Duolingo: Duolingo is a language-learning app that offers courses in multiple languages. It is an engaging way for middle schoolers to learn new languages and improve their language skills.

3.     Quizlet: Quizlet allows students to create digital flashcards and study sets to enhance memorization and understanding of various subjects.

Dad, young son, and daughter sitting on a sofa and snapping a selfie.

4.     Google Earth: Google Earth allows students and families to explore the world with interactive maps, 3D imagery, and virtual tours of historical sites and landmarks.

5.     Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that helps students with complex math, science, and engineering calculations.

6.     Swift Playgrounds: Swift Playgrounds is an app designed to teach coding and programming using Swift, Apple's programming language.

7.     Science Journal: Science Journal by Google is a science app that allows students to record and analyze data from experiments and scientific observations.

8.     Book Creator: Book Creator allows students to create their own digital books, encouraging creativity and storytelling.

9.     Notability: Notability is an app for note-taking, annotating, and organizing class materials, making it useful for studying and staying organized.

10.  MyScript Calculator: MyScript Calculator is a handwriting calculator app that recognizes handwritten math expressions and provides solutions.

11.  Tynker: Tynker offers coding courses and challenges programs that cater to different skill levels, making it suitable for both beginners and more experienced coders.

12.  PBS Kids Games: PBS Kids Games offers educational games and activities that cover various subjects, promoting learning through play.

Before using any app, ensure it aligns with your child's interests and educational goals. Additionally, it's a good idea to monitor their app usage and discuss the apps they are using to support their learning effectively.


Encouraging your high school student to use educational apps can complement their learning, improve productivity, and develop new skills.

High School Students

Here are some educational apps that are well-suited for high school students:

1.     Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers in-depth video lessons and practice exercises for subjects like math, science, history, and more. It can be particularly helpful for reviewing challenging topics or preparing for standardized tests.

2.     Duolingo: Duolingo provides language-learning courses in multiple languages, making it an excellent app for high school students who want to learn a new language.

3.     Quizlet: Quizlet offers digital flashcards and study sets to help students with test preparation and improve their knowledge retention.

Cheerful young dad and daughter sitting on the sofa laughing at something on a cell phone.

4.     Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha is a powerful computational knowledge engine that can assist high school students with complex math, science, and engineering concepts.

5.     Forest: Forest is a productivity app that helps students stay focused and manage their time effectively. It uses gamification to encourage students to avoid distractions and concentrate on their studies.

6.     Google Suite (Docs, Sheets, Slides): Google's productivity apps, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides, allow students to collaborate on projects, create documents, and organize information efficiently.

Smiling young woman with lush curly hair reading her email in the sunshine.

7.     Evernote: Evernote is a versatile note-taking app that allows students to keep track of their class notes, research, and ideas in an organized manner.

8.     Photomath: Photomath is a math-solving app that uses the camera to scan math problems and provides step-by-step solutions, helping students with math homework and problem-solving.

9.     Coursera and edX: These platforms offer online courses from top universities, allowing high school students to explore various subjects and gain additional knowledge beyond their regular curriculum.

10.  Khan Academy SAT/ACT Prep: These specialized Khan Academy apps offer SAT and ACT test preparation resources to help students improve their scores on college entrance exams.

Happy young man in a red plaid shirt leaning against a tractor and reading something on his cell phone.

11.  TED: The TED app provides access to inspiring and informative TED Talks on a wide range of topics, encouraging critical thinking and intellectual curiosity.

12.  Forest: Forest is a productivity app that helps students stay focused and avoid distractions while studying.


Young mom in a yellow dress holding her baby while cooking on the stove.

Encourage your high school student to explore these apps and find the ones that align with their interests and educational needs. Always ensure they use apps responsibly and in moderation to balance screen time with other activities.


Many families and parents see the purchase of a cell phone for their student as a great idea and add it to their basic list of items to shop for without hesitation. Other parents and even teachers worry about the impact of cell phones and too much screen time on students' mental health and social skills, and those are very real concerns. It comes down your family's values, knowing your child, and knowing what your school district and your child's teacher permits.

 Now that you're well versed in the cell phone's merits as a back to school essential, get your student a terrific phone and plan for FREE with Life Wireless. Put the money you'd spend on a phone and a plan toward the school supplies your student really needs! Start the aplication now and connect to a better life at the best possible savings! 


Posted 11 months ago