At what age should kids get cell phones?

I came across this article on CNET yesterday: How young is too young for a cellphone or smartphone? The author answers a question from a reader asking her opinion on what age is appropriate for a first cellphone and also what age is appropriate for a smart phone.

Kid with a cell phone

Perhaps this is too young?

The article is worth a read, especially if you read through the comments at the bottom.  What is clear is that there is no right answer to this question!

Some parents (like the article author) feel that it is best to wait as long as possible – high school.  Others feel that for safety’s sake it makes sense to give the kids a cell phone in elementary school.

I think somewhere in the middle makes sense. I’m thinking 7th or 8th grade. This hasn’t really come up in our household too much – unlike the parent in the article whose 11-year old is begging for a phone, my 11-year old 5th grader has not expressed an interest.  This could be partly due to the fact that none of her friends have one.  (If just one classmate did, then I’m sure I’d be hearing “but mom, EVERYONE in my class has one!”)  And also, as recently discussed, with an iPod touch the (perceived) need for connectivity and the latest and greatest technology has been met for the short-term.

Now, on the other hand (as I’m one who likes to consider both sides of an issue and often wavers in the middle in a very Libran-like manner), there have been a few situations recently where a cellphone would have come in handy. For example my daughter wanted to go shopping on her own to buy gifts for her parents (how nice!) but I wasn’t sure about letting her roam the aisles at Target unattended.  Our compromise was that I sat at the in-store Starbucks with my cellphone, while she went shopping armed with my husband’s cellphone.  I had her check in with me every ten minutes. It worked out great – I think it was a learning experience for her and a first step towards independence, but with a bit of a safety net.

In this case we were able to use the hubster’s phone.  But this could have been a prime use for a “family” phone.  Now this we’ve talked about as a solution if we ever decide to ditch the land-line: a no-frills cellphone that stays at home but then can be used as-needed as my daughter gets older.

What do you think? How young is too young in your family?

About Jean

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