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Is a 6-Year-Old Too Young to Have a Cell Phone?

Is a 6-Year-Old Too Young to Have a Cell Phone?

Everyone has a cell phone these days. And by everyone, I mean your eighty-nine-year-old grandmother and your nine-year-old child. Not surprisingly, the issue of kids and cell phones is a hot topic these days, with everyone from mommy bloggers to the New York Times weighing in on when a child is old enough to have a phone, which phones are best for kids, and how to make sure your child isn’t abusing his phone privileges.

How old is old enough?

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician based in Seattle, recommends waiting until a child is at least 11 or 12 years old before giving him or her a cell phone (NYT). But a YouthBeat survey from 2012 “found that 13% of children ages 6 to 10 already own one” (TIME).

Often, the answer of whether or not to hand over a cell phone depends on your child, and your living situation. If your child is more mature than others her age, has a strong sense of personal responsibility, and have a strong desire for a cell phone, than she may deserve the privilege of owning one. If your child needs to call for rides often or walks home alone by himself, then he may need one.

The risks

Owning a cell phone–especially a smartphone–comes with a lot of responsibilities, such as the responsibility to not stay up all night texting friends. Or surfing inappropriate sites on the internet. Or sexting. For kids and teens, whose impulse control is less well developed, a cell phone can open up all kinds of larger problems, such as sleep deprivation, cyber-bullying and social isolation.

Laying down the law

Janell Burley Hofmann, mother of a 13-year-old son, gave him an iPhone–accompanied by a contract that specifically lays out the rules of phone ownership, in hopes of preventing any cell phone-related problems before they occurred. Here’s an excerpt from her no-nonsense list of terms and conditions, found on the Huffington Post:

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 pm every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 pm.

5. It does not go to school with you.

And so on, all the way up to number 18. Laying down specific rules in writing is a great way to let your child know what kind of expectations you have for their phone use. Even cell phone providers, such as T-Mobile, provide articles that talk about the importance of setting limits for children using cell phones and have developed services to help limit what your child can and cannot do on his or her phone.

What do you think?

How old should a child be before he or she gets a cell phone? What kinds of rules or guidelines have worked in your home in regards to cell phone use? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Related Stories:

Father Creates App That Turns Off Teens’ Phones While Driving

Sexting Is Not Illegal. But Child Pornography Is.

Schools and Cell Phones: This Story Won’t End Where You Think!

 

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Photo: Dome Poon/flickr

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145 comments

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11:04AM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

Nowadays with all these rapist and all these ppl kidnapping kids and murdering them I'd rather my kids have a phone I could locate them and keep in touch..yeah their young and they prolly shouldn't have one but that's why there's settings.. you can shut the internet off you can shut txt msg off so their not abusing it..its a new world ,we don't live in the world where you can leave your doors unlocked and send your kids on a couple mile walk to school..there's sick and twisted ppl out there waiting on a kid to be walking to snatch them up.. you can teach your kid to never talk to or approach a stranger but a twisted person will snatch them up..and even ppl like that wouldn't think a young child would have a cell phone and the parents could locate them and have a better chance on saving their lives..ill be giving my child a cell phone. .I trust my kids to do the right things and be smart but I don't trust the sick and twisted ppl..so if giving my kids a phone a little bit early in life keeps my mind at ease then I'm going to do it

11:02AM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

Nowadays with all these rapist and all these ppl kidnapping kids and murdering them I'd rather my kids have a phone I could locate them and keep in touch..yeah their young and they prolly shouldn't have one but that's why there's settings.. you can shut the internet off you can shut txt msg off so their not abusing it..its a new world ,we don't live in the world where you can leave your doors unlocked and send your kids on a couple mile walk to school..there's sick and twisted ppl out there waiting on a kid to be walking to snatch them up.. you can teach your kid to never talk to or approach a stranger but a twisted person will snatch them up..and even ppl like that wouldn't think a young child would have a cell phone and the parents could locate them and have a better chance on saving their lives..ill be giving my child a cell phone. .I trust my kids to do the right things and be smart but I don't trust the sick and twisted ppl..so if giving my kids a phone a little bit early in life keeps my mind at ease then I'm going to do it

9:31AM PDT on May 1, 2013

the rule when i was a kid was that we could not have a cell until we had a drivers license (when my parents would need a way to contact us) anytime before that we were to be with an adult anyway, so my parents would call that adult if they needed me. I survived, and will likely do the same when my son is older. he will NOT have a phone while elementary school age. Geez let your kids be KIDS

4:42PM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

Oh here comes another "Oldie" with his when I was a young man. Well so it was that even the local shopkeepers didn't have a LANDLINE phone. and in the inner city of London most households didn't either. You wanted to make a call then you walked a half a mile to a public call box. Strangely life and business seemed to carry on without the need for people to feel they are so important that they have to stay in "Touch" CONTINUOUSLY. I still don't own one of these items, maybe one day, but it will have to wait until my property can actually receive and send calls. My son said he could as long as he stood on one leg at the top of a ladder on a windy day. Hells bells I could still send in Morse or Semaphore from that height. Then the local Aborigines did better with smoke.

3:33PM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

Don't posses a cell phone. and do not agree with kids having one. Their addictive use will lead to a lot of illiterate mutes.

6:14AM PDT on Apr 4, 2013

What nobody seems to have mentioned here are the consequences of cellphone use on the health and development of children, and most especially younger children. More and more evidence is being discovered about the detrimental effects on the mental development and health of children.

7:47PM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

I don't think kids should have a phone of their own until they are old enough to work and pay for it themselves

1:14AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

[cont.] Maybe my post will help at least one or maybe a few parents teetering on the fence decide to wait as long as possible before allowing their child(ren) to have a cell phone...or give someone some things to think about if currently expecting or may have a child/children at some point in the future. It's best to wait until they can drive, or until they can afford to pay for it themselves, & show the appropriate maturity & responsibility.

1:13AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

[cont.] so skin can get really hot/burned. The battery can explode-I had a cell phone years ago that suddenly would no longer work & was told the battery basically did that inside the phone & "fried the phone" so it had to be replaced...& I've heard of other cases/seen photos online of people who've actually been injured from similar occurrences. Laptops aren't supposed to be used in close proximity to the groin region because research has reported lower sperm count/reproductive issues...so what about using a cell phone near that part of the body while texting, video chatting, surfing the web, talking on speakerphone, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, etc.? There's also the research & reports that indicate potential links to cancers & disorders due to the radiation from cell phones (& other electrical items used in so many homes-like microwaves, tvs, & radios). For older children-the issues others have talked about regarding pornography, inappropriate pictures & messaging, secrecy, disruptions, individuals who prey on kids for sexual or bullying purposes, etc. I could go on...sorry for the long comment...I just strongly feel the cons outweigh the pros in regard to this topic-both from my experience & that of others. Plus, the age old fall-back question: what did people do before cell phones/how did people function before? They got along just fine, and in countless instances better without. Maybe my post will help at least

1:12AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

[cont.] It is not good to get a child hooked on technology at such a young age & allowing over-use, esp. extreme over-use. Everything else falls by the wayside. That's what they expect/want/prefer. Outbursts if the child doesn't get his/her way-& then problems if parents don't agree on discipline tactics, which tantrums & discipline arguments/issues wouldn't be problematic if a child too young to play with an expensive phone who whines or throws it in frustration or accidentally drops it wasn't given the phone in the first place, & then the child wouldn't have to be unnecessarily punished for lack of maturity. Not to mention attention issues-lack of focus on other things/experiences/relationships/parenting, not listening/responding in preference to the phone. Early age interference with a child learning to do things for like feeding & other behaviors typical to an age/stage when on the phone all the time. Promotes behavior issues, lack of respect, lack of adherance to the wishes, rules/standards of parents or others, "real communication" hindrances. Not only do parents need to think about & deal with the monetary cost(s) associated with providing a child a phone, developmental, & social effects (with self, parents, others), but also of other concern is potential health effects. Looking at a screen for long periods of time, often, &/or close isn't good for the eyes. Cell phones can get hot on the back from the battery, so skin can get really hot

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Judy Molland An award-winning writer and teacher, Judy Molland is also an avid hiker, backpacker, and nature... more
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