Mobile Phone and Kids

Brad Kellett has a post about that inevitable combination of kids and phones.  He asks “when is too early,” and then goes through a thoughtful analysis of kids and phones.

He cites an article on C|Net that says that the average age at which kids get mobile phones is currently 8 years old- and that the average age is expected to drop to 5 years old next year.  The only thing that dropped so far is my jaw when I read that.

I have three kids.  One is 8, one is 5 and one is a baby.  While the oldest is a dedicated landline phone user, she does not have a mobile phone and she has not asked for one.  To my knowledge, none of my kids’ friends have mobile phones.  And to my knowledge (every parent knows after a while never to make absolute statements) none of my kids will be getting a mobile phone any time soon.

In fact, I can only think of one phone carrying classmate my kids have ever had.  When my oldest was around 4 or 5, one of her classmates started carrying around a cell phone.  I and the other parents I talked to about it thought it was ludicrous.  In my opinion 5 or 8 or even 10 is way too early.

Brad concludes that mobile phones are appropriate somewhere between the 5th and 7th grade.  Another of my blogosphere pals, James Kendrick says his kids got phones in the 7th or 8th grade.  That sounds about right to me.

My concerns about phones are partially the distraction resulting from the instant ability to call anyone you want, and even more so from the danger resulting from the instant ability for anyone to call you.  Add text messaging and photo taking to the equation and it gets really scary.

On the other hand, there are certainly benefits to connectivity.  My oldest has taken to calling me before bed when she spends the night with a friend.  I look forward to talking with her, and it’s comforting to hear from her without having to risk her wrath by calling her at her friend’s house.  I am certain that when my kids are older, the “one rule” in our home (never, ever lie to your daddy) will be supplemented by the “other one rule” (answer your mobile phone within 3 rings or prepare to be grounded for a very long time).

Also, I am intrigued by the GPS possibilities.  It is my fervent hope that by the time my kids are out and about without daddy close by,  GPS will have evolved to a point where I will always be able to track their travels via GPS and my computer.  Redundancy via phone and car would be nice.  It’s an open question whether they will know about that redundancy.  Technology to enable “other one rule” compliance might also be useful to confirm compliance with the “one rule.”

I suppose I could be convinced that one of the specially made phones for kids might be appropriate at an earlier age.  As long as I can control who they can call and who can call them, the benefits of connectivity become more evident.

Brad wondered about one thing I can answer for sure.  When you have kids, you feel differently about most stuff- including phones.

But the answers are still not as clear as we’d like.

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