At what age should you give your child a cell phone?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: July 2, 2012

In the world today, technology has become an integral part of everyone's lives. I am never more than a few feet away from my smartphones, and most of the time I have a backpack or messenger bag, chock-full of tech, slung on my shoulder. I even catch myself constantly daydreaming over the handful of gadgets I have pre-ordered (or backed via Kickstarter) that will arrive later this year. (I seriously cannot wait for Leap Motion to be plugged into my MacBook and to be swiping and typing in-air.)

But there are some concerns we all should consider, such as how this technology impacts our lives and those around us. Are you addicted to technology? Does it affect your social life? Do your phone habits affect your sleep? Work? Family life?

When it comes to tech, though, there are also major moral concerns that every parent comes across at some point. Tecca's Michael Arcand asked a question almost every modern parent has faced: How young is too young for a mobile phone? As Arcand explains, there is no black and white, one-size-fits-all answer. While there are advantages to introducing technology to children early on, it's probably not a good idea to pass down your bad cell phone habits to your child. You don't want them tapping out text messages at the dinner table or ignoring you while they check their Facebook from their phone.

Per usual, there are many different factors to consider when tackling such a question.

First, weigh the advantages. You can reach your child almost anywhere, barring they have service, their phone hasn't died or they don't choose to ignore when you call. You can also track their location through the embedded GPS chip in the cell phone. And there are certain skills (social and technological) that a child needs to develop through some freedom, rewards and means of communicating with their friends.

Then identify the disadvantages. You might be receiving a phone call about your child's incessant cell phone use during school. Remember that most phone also have an Internet connection, and most of those data packages come with a hard or soft limit. Nobody wants to up the possibility or risk of an outrageous amount of overages. Worse yet, there is next to no parental oversight, so what your child would be looking up is at their own discretion (without the aid of something like Net Nanny).

Not to mention, cell phones are expensive to replace (insurance isn't cheap either). Children are notorious for breaking things, and cell phones are certainly not going to be an exception.

There is also the want versus need argument. Arcand explains that the younger a child, the more they will be under constant parental supervision. Those parents will likely have cell phones of their own. But your child carrying a cell phone may be the difference in an emergency situation.

Finally, you have to come to a consensus on what age a cell phone is appropriate, which is totally at the discretion of parents.

While I won't have to face this debate with my significant other for several years, it's still something I come across quite often. Personally, I wasn't allowed to own a cell phone until I started playing sports and spending the nights away from home a lot. And I wasn't allowed to choose my own phone until I had my own job – 16-years-old.

But it's as if every day I see younger and younger children with cell phones. And tons even with smartphones. One of my cousins had a cell phone at age six. Another had an iPhone around age nine. To me, that's just too young, at least for a smartphone. I can understand a parent justifying their child carrying a cell phone; it can be consoling. But there is no real justification for a child that young to have a smartphone.

If I had a child, I would hold off on giving them a cell phone until they were at least 12 or 13 – upon entering adolescence. And they wouldn't get a smartphone before they could pay for it themselves. (Oh, how I sound like my mother!) That decision, of course, is going to vary family to family. Do you have a child? Have you given them a cell phone? A smartphone? If so, at what age did you do so? If not, at what age will your child get their first phone?

Image via modmyi