My 8-year-old daughter asked me for a cellphone the other day. My first response was to laugh out loud. She doesn't know how to use my phone — heck, I barely know how to use my phone — and aside from the occasional call to Grandma, she never actually uses a phone. But some kids in her class have them, so that got her thinking about it. And though I really don't see a cellphone anywhere in my daughter's immediate future, her query did get me thinking.
At what age do most parents give their kids a cellphone? After a quick and completely unscientific poll of friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, I came up with the following answer: as with everything in parenting, it depends on the kids, the parents and the situation.
On average, most parents seemed to think middle school (aged 12 and up) was about the right time to give a child a cellphone. At this age, kids are home without supervision, attending events without parents along, and may be around adults whom their parents don't know. These were the almost verbatim reasons that the majority of parents gave for giving their kids phones.
But then again, many parents emphasized the role of the kids' maturity and responsibility levels. One commenter noted that she did not allow her son to have a phone until he turned 15 for these reasons, while another noted that her daughter was ready at 10.
And again, as with many things parenting-related, there were lots of answers on both ends of the spectrum. One parent was entertaining her 5-year-old's request for a cellphone while another didn't see any reason to give her kids phones at all. (We all survived without them, right?)
One interesting thing I noted that I had never thought of before is that some parents give their kids the responsibility of texting while the parent is driving. Personally, I bury my phone on the passenger seat and resist all urges to check calls and messages while driving, but handing it over to the kids and allowing them to read and respond to texts is not a bad idea. Of course, you would have to be 100 percent confident that all incoming texts are appropriate for young audiences!
Much to her dismay, I still don't see a cellphone in my daughter's immediate future. But I will reevaluate the situation when she heads off to middle school.
How about you — at what age did/will your child get his first cellphone?