Too young for a cell phone?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  August 6, 2009 11:11 AM

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Our oldest children each got a cell phone right around their 10th birthdays. They travel back and forth between their mom's house and ours, and it made sense to make sure they had a way to reach all of their parents, any time they needed to.

Our oldest daughter didn't really use her cell phone very much until she'd had it for a couple of years. Our second-oldest daughter likes to text, and started using her cell phone right away. Our oldest son had his cell phone confiscated by his Mom a few months after he got it; he quickly racked up a $300 bill with text-message spam and ringtone downloads. So, while 10 years old was about right for our now-teenage girls, it was too soon for our tween boy.

Some experts say children are ready to handle a cell phone around age 10 or 11, because they are becoming more independent and starting to do things -- like go to the library, or wait for the school bus with friends -- without an adult present.

"Increasingly, kids in sixth and seventh grade have cell phones, and your child might, depending on your community, be in the minority not to have one," Diane Debrovner, health and psychology editor of Parents magazine, tells The Houston Chronicle.

Frankly, I don't think "everyone else already has one" is a good enough reason to give your child a cell phone. But if your kid flies by himself to visit his other set of parents, or has to walk home after school or sports, or spends time alone at home until you get home from work, giving him a cell phone seems like a smart precautionary measure.

I'm not saying you need to run out and buy your tween an iPhone (though there are plenty of cool, free apps out there to keep your kids occupied for a few minutes on yours). But if you're running late to pick your kids up from school, a pre-paid GoPhone is an inexpensive way to provide peace of mind -- to you and your child.

Of course, a GoPhone wouldn't have prevented our tween from receiving spam text messages from friends of friends, and probably wouldn't have stopped him from trying to download random ring tones. But my kid isn't your kid -- parents have to take their own child's maturity level and experiences into consideration. Dory Devlin at Yahoo! Tech offers a few guidelines for trying to decide whether to let your child go mobile:

1.) How and when will they use the phones? Are the phones for emergency use only or for socializing?

2.) Should they be able to send and receive text messages? To and from whom?

3.) What is the entire monthly cost, including fees, text messaging, photos, ringtone and music downloads?

4.) Will your child pay for all or part of the plan? Will the money come out of her allowance, or is she a teenager with a summer job and a small income?

Does your child have a cell phone? How old is old enough to be responsible for one?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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62 comments so far...
  1. Are you crazy or do you work for Verizon? I, and all of my peers, stood at the bus stop, and went to the library, and the mall, all without cell phones. Who are these experts who say that children should automatically take part in our consumer-driven technologies? As bad as second-hand smoke? Perhaps it is. We're now pushing instant gratification as a right, instead of promoting effort and achievement over time. I didn't even have a phone in my room until I was in high school. Somehow I survived.

    Definitely don't work for Verizon. On the fence about the crazy. As for the cell phone question... it's something a lot of parents wonder about, which is why I put it out there. Thanks for weighing in. -- LMA

    Posted by Kat Warnick August 6, 09 04:53 PM
  1. 50+ years ago when I was that age, I regularly took the bus from my small town to Camden, NJ to go to the "Y". No cell phones, only the availability of a phone booth on most corners. I know times have changed, but it seems to me that we parents do not need to be in constant touch (read that control) with our children. Some level of independence is part of the maturing process. And these children do not need to be in constant touch with their cohort. Some other model of raising our children will work better and produce more successful adults.

    Posted by Rick klotz August 6, 09 04:57 PM
  1. My 10 year old daughter is constantly harassing me for a cell phone, why, "because all my friends have one". This is not exactly true, the reality is that all her friends in single parent households have a cell phone, for the reasons stated by LMA. I continue to tell my daughter that she does not need a phone because she is not in the same situation as her friends with phones.

    Personally I do not like all this technology and instant contact. I don't like others having the ability to "track" me down. It is not uncommon for my cell phone to ring if I do not answer my work or home phone as the caller will try all three numbers to reach me, and it has never been an emergency situation.

    I also do not like the fact that tweens and teens spend all their time texting, rather than looking people in the face and having a convesation. This constant contact prevents our children (and the work obsessed) from being able to spend quiet time with their own thoughts. Our chldren are no longer able to appreciate "down" time.

    Kat Warnick above mentions having a phone in her room. I had to get married to have a phone (and television) in my room. These are true luxeries (in my opinion) and are not necessary for my children.

    Rant over.

    Posted by alp August 6, 09 05:29 PM
  1. I attended an interesting class for parents about kids and technology a few months ago. It was recommended to us parents that if we felt a child needed a cell phone as young as ten or eleven, to make it the kind of program that would only allow calls to a few limited numbers, and absolutely NOT to give them the ability to text until they were 15 at a minimum. They simply don't need that (not that anyone really does) and most kids as a rule are not mature enough to handle these additional ways in which they can be cruel to one another. Seems sensible enough to me.

    The fact that we did without it 50 years ago is irrelevant. Pay phones are few and far between if they even work, and at that point good luck to you to put 50 cents in and make a call. You need a calling card with 872 digits to make it go through. The days of giving them a dime for their penny loafers in case they need to make a call have passed. When used sensibly and appropriately, I don't see anything wrong with giving them the ability to call home from where ever they are.

    Posted by RH August 6, 09 05:41 PM
  1. There's aren't any phone booths or pay phones anymore.
    Nowadays, if you need to use a phone away from home, you need to have or borrow a cell phone. Do you want your kid asking strangers to borrow their phone?

    Definitely pre-paid is the way to go, so they can't spend a fortune. There are cheap (

    Posted by Cheapskate August 6, 09 05:56 PM
  1. I think this is an important question that deserves some discussion (which I think LMA has given). As someone well over fifty, I think you people need to get your heads out of the sand. It is not 50 years ago, there are no public phones on every corner, mommy isn't at home baking cookies when you come home from school, and there are a lot more bad guys out there after kids. What was good for us 50 years ago probably doesn't work nowadays. Anytime you hear yourself saying "I didn't have (fill in blank) and I survived," it's a good bet you're talking like a (jealous) old fart grossly out of touch with today's realities. A cell phone is an important part of giving kids more independence, Rick. That was the point of the four questions. A cell phone isn't about instant gratification, its about a new level of responsibility for a child. Clearly the son who racked up $300+ in charges didn't get the difference between gratification and responsibility, and lost ability to have his cell phone. Some elements of parenting are different now from when we were kids, and that's okay.

    Posted by Nancy G August 6, 09 05:57 PM
  1. We told our daughter that the phone is for emergencies, and that we can find out about every call and text message she makes/receives. If she makes contact anyone but us, we take her phone, which means she won't be allowed to bike to school. She hides her phone from her friends, so there's no pressure for her to use it. We pay for it, we can set the rules. Having it doesn't mean it needs to be used much, like car (or life) insurance.

    By the way, we live in the city, and there are plenty of ways for kids to get into a bind between home and school. Back in the old days, cars didn't have seat belts in the back and drunk driving was acceptable, and most kids made it. Do we need to do things the old way when there's a better way?

    Posted by craftsman August 6, 09 06:34 PM
  1. I'm a single parent and a cell phone for my then 11-year old made sense.

    Texting not enabled. Purpose of phone was to stay in touch wtih me, or her friends if they had phones. There were basic ground rules (such as no purchasing of ringtones w/o permission). If ground rules broken, phone confiscated and given back only when necessary - and allowance forfeited in the amount charged.

    I ignored grousing from other parents who thought 11 was too young. Many of them were stay at home moms, with spouses, who did not face some of the challenges I faced at the time.

    Maybe I am from another planet, but can someone tell me know it's so hard to set reasonable limits, and follow through on them? The child who racks up $300 in charges - was he expected to take some age-appropirate responsibility for that??? or did we stop at "he's just not ready"?

    Thanks for your comment, Ava. While my son did have to chip in to help pay that $300 bill, the incident showed us that he clearly was not ready for a cell phone of his own. He thought the ringtones he was downloading directly to his phone were like the free music samples, and he didn't understand that you get charged for receiving text messages as well as sending them, and gave his number to his school friends so they could "say hi." So while he had to take some responsibility, I think the fault was mainly ours. -- LMA

    Posted by ava August 6, 09 06:38 PM
  1. We gave our now 14yo son a GoPhone on his 13th birthday - part of a "rite of passage" for becoming a teenager. We pay for the daily charge and some calls for periods only when we think he needs it - for example, when he's on a weekend trip with a class, or a summer program he's just returned from. If he wants to use it more (including texting), he contributes to refill it.

    So far, so good...he does complain that he "needs" unlimited texting like his friends. AT&T (which operates GoPhone) has just introduced a plan for 1000 text messages for $8, and he can do that if he wants (so far, he hasn't wanted to).

    Posted by Liz August 6, 09 06:51 PM
  1. alp, I totally agree with you. My 11-year-old step-daughter has a phone that her mom bought her two years ago. She is generally a pretty responsible kid, but so far as managed to accidentally destroy two phones in less than two years. I wouldn't have replaced the first one, never mind the second one, but I'm not the one who gets a say in that situation, nor do I pay the bill. She lives 1/4 mile from her school, her mom is home, and when she's at our house her dad and I both have cell phones and a landline so I don't get the point of having one.

    That said, my 11-year-old son does not have a phone and will not have one any time soon. He is either at school, in a supervised program where adults are around, or with his friends, most of whom have phones so if needed in an "emergency" he can reach me and I can reach him through his friends. Most kids I know this age who have phones use them as toys, accessories, or entertainment, not a communication device. As such, my kids will get phones when they can demonstrate a need for them and when they can pay the bill themselves - age 13, with no web, camera, video or text features, seems like a reasonable start for us. The first phone will be a gift - you lose or destroy it, buy a new one yourself.

    Posted by Jen August 6, 09 06:54 PM
  1. It's distressing that a phrase like "to visit his other set of parents" can be tossed out as simply an example of a situation where a child might benefit from having a cell phone.

    Surely the author would not so casually offer "to see his cancer specialist" or "to come home on weekend furloughs from his juvenile detention center" as additional examples, yet the "other set of parents" reference bespeaks similarly tragic circumstances that in my (retrograde?) opinion are worthy of more respectful treatment.

    I appreciate what you're saying, Mark, but it's not disrespectful to acknowledge that our older children have another set of parents whom we consider to be as important a part of their lives as we are. Visitation involves travel, sometimes without an adult present, and it's a valid reason to give kids another way to communucate, in my opinion. --LMA

    Posted by Mark Wilcox August 7, 09 12:11 AM
  1. My 10 year old daughter has one, but she has been gone frequently during the summer at various multiple-day overnight excursions with friends and extended family.

    She likes to take pictures to send us and also sends my husband and I text messages. My job makes frequent use of text messaging. My husband gets his work email on his phone.

    When her friends call home and she is gone, I'll text her the message so she can return her friend's calls.

    She hasn't gotten to the point of wanting to call/text friends all the time, so we haven't needed to set any limits, and she enjoys the trust and responsibility we place in her by letting her have her own phone.

    When school resumes, she won't be taking it with her unless she has after school plans, most days she returns home on the bus, so the phone will stay home. It sits in a drawer in a common area, where it remains off and I keep it charged up for her use.

    I would worry more about not giving a younger chlid a phone until they were 14-16, whereas that would be peak time for abuse, constant contact with friends, thousands of text messages, etc. By the time my daughter is 13, 14, she'll have had use of a phone for a few years and much of the novelty will have worn off. I also bet in 3-4 years, every single kid will be carrying one. The GPS tracker in the iPhone is handy, I assume you can determine the location of your phone at any time remotely.

    Posted by Michele August 7, 09 01:40 AM
  1. Put them on the family plan, but get them a bare bones phone and block texting both in and out. You can also block a phone from making calls or receiving calls except from specific numbers (like parents, grand parents, etc).

    Why do people seem to ignore this fact and then act shocked when they get a huge phone bill. If you don't want your child doing it then dont' get them a phone with that capability.

    Posted by C August 7, 09 01:49 AM
  1. I plan to get a phone for my oldest when he's permitted to walk home from school without an adult (to an empty house). My guess is that he will be 11 and entering 6th grade. There will be strict limits set up, and he will be expected to comply. If he manages to rack up an enormous bill, he will have to earn money to help pay it off, in addition to losing the privilege of a phone.

    We were recently at a family event where the teenagers (ranging from 12-19) all had phones and spent the entire time texting with friends instead of interacting with the people surrounding them. It was really sad, and I don't want that for my kids.

    Posted by akmom August 7, 09 06:57 AM
  1. So then why didn't some adult speak up and say "Enough is enough, you're with family now, put the phones away?"

    Posted by sparky August 7, 09 09:53 AM
  1. I see the same happeneing with my nephew and his DS. Same as a phone for a 12 year old. At his birthday party, he was off on his own playing is DS instead of interacting with HIS guests. He barely looked up at me when I was saying good-bye. His parents wonder why I don't get him any new games for Christmasor his birthday. I get him model airplanes to build, and the like. I can see this type of technology coming in handy when there is a definiteband absulote NEED for it, but for everyday use by a tween or teen is unwarranted; they is no personal interaction anymore with kids; they wonder why they are bored all the time if they don't have their "toys". FYI, I'm only in my mid 30's.

    Posted by Old School August 7, 09 10:55 AM
  1. My daughter just got her first cell phone at the end of 8th grade. Up until now, she has always been driven to and from events or was with an adult. Coming in to high school, things are a bit different.

    That doesn't mean she didn't pressure us for a phone for the last 3+ years. I just don't agree that a younger kid "needs" a phone. Even now, my daughter has rules she must abide by or she will lose the privilege.

    Posted by QuigLewis August 7, 09 11:04 AM
  1. This is such good timing.. we were just talking about this at work! I was at the neighborhood playground last night and an 11 year old was complaining because she doesn't have a touch screen.. neither do I , poor thing. (I am 34)
    She said that she does texting all the time. Then a younger boy joined in and said that someone he knows in 1st grade brings a phone to school all the time. Man, I feel like an elderly person in my thinking but this is way to young to start all this. I had to beg my parents for my own phone line when I was 16 and had a job to pay for the bill.

    Whomever is letting their young children text, beware. You have no supervision over them and who knows who they are texting. Also, beware of letting them use Facebook and Twitter. I predict, many lives will be destroyed over the imappropriateness of what is getting posted on these sites. My company is using Facebook a tool when they are screening candidates, FYI!

    Posted by Techno Mom August 7, 09 11:13 AM
  1. My kids have phones, but they don't text and they have to put them (and the iThings) away when told to or they lose them.

    Yes, we all used phone booths and we were all just fine as kids ... problem is, what is a phone booth? What do they look like? Where can they be found? Oh yes, they are but a mythic antique of the past ... which is why my kids have cheap phones.

    Oh yah - thanks for putting Mark in his place. Why is it "tragic" that some kids have four loving, engaged, and concerned parents rather than two miserable ones? Grow up.

    Posted by infoferret August 7, 09 11:21 AM
  1. There's no appropriate age for a kid to have a cell phone, it's got to do with how mature they are to handle one. For a couple of years i used the same excuse that years ago we survived w/o the technology, but truth be told, there's more population nowadays, and with mental problems to boot! There's alot more traffic and with that, road rage! So u never know what's gonna happen. Do u really want ur child in a situation like that without being able to call or get in contact with someone for help? My tween twins wanted one, i told'm not till they were in high school, but my sis-n-law got'm both one! i was pissed but soon realized that they were mature enough to handle one they never use it innapropriately. At first it was only for emergency calls and to call mobile to mobile, then, after their hard work n responsibility, my sis-n-law added text, which they use only when necessary. I'm very proud of my kids, now, for the 6 year old, (soon to be 7), I'm having a hard time making him understand that he's too young for one, but the twins have had theirs for a few years so he thinks it's time for him to have one too. I know that my seven year old will mature way later than the twins. So no Cell phone for him!

    Posted by karina vega August 7, 09 12:13 PM
  1. Yes my 13 year old has a cell phone. My ex-wife and I gave it to him when he was 11. After 2 years with the same phone, he finally exchanged it for a new one. Yes with two families and two houses a cell phone is essential. Our son is fine with two houses and there is nothing "tragic" about it. Out of his 7th grade class of 21 kids, 13 had cell phones. Times have changed and parents are not keeping up with those changes. Using excuses of what it was like when we were kids as being sufficient is not based in reality. This is a great way to have a dialogue with your 10, 11 or 12 year old. Great article.

    Posted by Michael August 7, 09 12:14 PM
  1. Techno Mom wrote:

    "My company is using Facebook a tool when they are screening candidates, FYI!"


    How do they do this if your profile is set to private and only viewable by friends? I'm certainly not going to grant friendship to a potential employer!

    I've even removed my profile from Google (it's a privacy setting), so if you google my name and facebook, you won't get the FB-generated public version of my profile.

    Posted by Mike August 7, 09 01:20 PM
  1. I'm 38 and I still don't have a cell phone. And I have no plans to get cell phones for my kids. I just don't see constant electronic connection to be necessary. Without a cell phone, my kids will have to plan ahead. They will have to tell me where they are going before they go, and make plans for how we will meet up and where. They have enough trouble remembering their lunch boxes and jackets. There is no way I am giving them a piece of electronics to lose.

    Somehow, I commuted an hour each way to high school in downtown Chicago, on public transit, without a cell phone. Contrary to what everyone seems to think, public phones are still available in train stations, many museums, and so on. I also think that they can walk around our town without me knowing exactlly where they are at each moment. I would rather use the cell phone money to get them some self defense/martial arts training than get them used to calling me every 5 minutes instead of thinking things through on their own.

    Posted by BMS August 7, 09 01:27 PM
  1. Personally, I would never have given any of my 5 children (...they're all grown now) a cell phone, and I see absolutely not reason children should have them, especially when in school (...I actually think they should be banned from school as an detrimental distraction to the education process). That being said, if a teenager (not a child any younger) absolutely needs a phone for some reason, then he/she should get a job and pay for it themselves & be fully accountable/responsible for it. Generally, I think that alone will determine what kind of phone & calling plan they get. Then guidelines/rules need to be set by the parents as to what the phone will be used for what's acceptable & what's not, etc. Once again, such phones do NOT belong in school or otherwise be a distraction.

    Posted by IronManCC August 7, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Since when is having a cell phone a responsibility for a child? Now that's funny and a nice excuse to spend money for nothing.

    A newspaper route is responsibility.

    Posted by Barb August 7, 09 03:43 PM
  1. Get a grip folks. My kids have a phone because they are spoiled. They want one, don't need one. It is fun for them, not a responsibility. You can mask it as a responsibility issue if that makes you feel good as a delusional parent. You want your kids to feel like they are part of the In group, having a cell phone at 10. ( maybe because you weren't) Because if they break it, you know damn well you will buy them a new one and not make them pay for it, so where is the responsibility. We need to know where are kids are at every minute of every day, it is sickening.. .......................Guilty as charged

    Posted by GetAgrip August 7, 09 04:34 PM
  1. There are alternative options to prepaid for people looking for inexpensive cell service for their kids. Some cellular service providers offer the benefits of pre-paid (i.e. no contracts) with the convenience of post-paid. For example, I work with a cellular provider called Consumer Cellular that offers post-paid billing with no contracts, so customers can change their usage plan without penalty, whenever they want. If your child racks up lots of minutes or texts for example, you don’t have to take it on the chin with overage charges. You can simply bump up the plan without penalty. Yes, you have to pay more for your child’s irresponsible behavior, but it sure beats a monthly bill of hundreds of dollars. Plus, you can cancel the service at any time without an early termination fees.

    Posted by Consumer Cellular August 7, 09 04:59 PM
  1. Live IS possible without a cell phone. But it DOES makes life easier to give a phone to a child at about 11-12, when mom and dad are not hovering over every single activity and social event!

    And back in so-called good old days, mom was usually home, as were most moms, and there were pay phones all over the place (10 cents for a local call).

    Please, single parenthood/ two households is not an "excuse" for giving a child a phone. But they help when you need to stay in touch with the child, and arrange to pick them up, etc. The kiddies don't while away their afternoons at the local park anymore...they are scheduled to the max with every structured activity you can imagine - right, moms and dads?

    1. Dad lives 100 miles away. Regardless of whether it should be this way, this way, it is what it is. Dad cannot always just swing by.
    2. I am at work, all day.
    3. Nearest relative is next town over and does not drive.
    4. Other parents can and do help, but my child is my resopnsibility not theirs.
    5. When was the last time you saw a pay phone?
    6. This is an opportunity to learn about and handle responsibility.

    okay?

    Posted by ava August 7, 09 06:25 PM
  1. It astonishes me that both of the authors of this piece are parenting consultants and are absolutely uninformed about the thousands of studies that have been done that link radio frequency radiation from cell phones, towers, wi fi and toys to brain cancer, early alzheimer's, focus and concentration problems, mouth cancer (a recent israeli study confirmed this) immune disfunction, cell and DNA damage and a host of other acute and chronic problems. It seems that our entire country is devoid of information and curiosity about this while everyone wanders about staring at their cell phones in a wireless trance. http://www.wirelesswatchblog.com check it out
    europe

    Posted by david em August 7, 09 09:53 PM
  1. There are 28 comments to this article, some pro phones, some cons and not one addresses the health concerns. This is frightening and at the same time a testament to how much our media is controlled. In Europe where most of the studies are done that links cell phones, towers, and wi fi to cancer and other health problems they are dismantling wi fi and removing it from schools and libraries. In france cell phone sales to children have been banned as has advertising cell phones to kids. Israel just banned all wireless products for home use. The french parliament has had emergency meetings to find ways to lessen public exposure to RF from cell towers. Meanwhile here in the United States we are installing wi fi in all the schools and putting cell phones into kids hands in the guise of using them as a n educational tool. i am sure that bribes are being handed out and everyone is getting rich including the healthcare industry.

    Posted by david em August 7, 09 10:18 PM
  1. Just as a matter of note, I live in a very small town, and in the short drive from my work to home, I pass at least 2 pay phones, depending on the route. If you need to ask where the pay phones are, take your eyes off the text screen and look around. By the way, I am a teacher and I constantly have to ask students to put the cell phones away. They text their friends and even their parents text or phone them while they are at school. This has happened several times, and the kids have admitted to me that not once has it been for an emergency. The parents need to grow up as much as the kids.

    Posted by Patches02 August 7, 09 10:30 PM
  1. Handle responsibility? In what sense? You don't say.

    Posted by SettleDown August 8, 09 12:32 AM
  1. It depends on the kid. I was a latchkey kid at 7, had my first job at 11 (delivering newspapers), and was riding the bus 15 miles to school at 12. I was in plenty of situations where a cell phone would have been useful. One that comes to mind was in 5th grade, when school was dismissed early because of snow, but the principal would not let students call their parents.

    Unlike 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago, pay phones are disappearing. The emergency dime is now 4 emergency quarters. Family plans, especially prepaid family plans (like Cricket) make it easy to control when kids talk, how much they talk, and who they talk to.

    Posted by Liz August 8, 09 03:28 AM
  1. We just gave our 12 yr old his first phone so he can contact us in an emergency when he is not at school and traveling. He does use it to stay in contact wit his friends and he's becoming more socially independent as a result.
    Growing up we didn't text- we wrote . We didn't e-mail, we phoned. It's a different world now. Kids text to stay in contact. Cell phones are everywhere. It's our job as parents to teach responsibility.

    Posted by p August 8, 09 07:15 AM
  1. I have a 17 year old, a 13 year old and an 11 year old. The older two each have cellphones. They have a phone that has limits on minutes, but unlimited texting. The texting has been a real boon. It lets me leave them messages and ensure that they see them. (Imagine the nagging potential.) It lets them send me messages that I can check in situations where I cannot listen to a phone message. And, they know that I can and do check their message logs. It lets me keep track of who and what is in their lives since neither my husband nor I are able to be with them 24/7.

    Posted by Karen August 8, 09 09:28 AM
  1. I teach college students. I get the kids who have had cell phones since they were 13 and CANNOT turn them off. They can't go through a whole 70 minute class without flipping the phone open 5 times, texting, leaving the room to take a call, etc. etc. These are people who are (or their parents are) paying thousands and thousands of dollars to hear what I have to say, and yet they can't bear to disconnect from the phone. This habit had to come from somewhere. If I can't get 20 year olds to hang up and pay attention, how do I expect a 12 year old to not get distracted by it? Unless I don't let them carry it to school. Which, if they don't have it with them, sort of defeats the purpose.

    Posted by BMS August 8, 09 10:33 AM
  1. Ok, Ok...so we all grew up without cell phones. Does that mean this generation's young folks shouldn't have one? My grandparents didn't have a toilet in the house. Should I board up my bathroom? How many of you are willing to give up your TV because your parents didn't have one? Its called advancement. We don't have to love all of it but we do have to decide how to deal with it, especially when children are involved.

    My only beef- worse than an adult answering a phone at the dinner table is a child doing the same. Teach manners as part of that responsibility.

    Posted by sandra August 8, 09 11:55 AM
  1. This one is a no-brainer. When the kid is old enough to buy it and pay the monthly bill. We survived long before cell phones, we can certainly do without them now.

    Posted by Chloe-OBrien August 8, 09 03:33 PM
  1. My 21 year old twins got their cell phones when they got their driving permits. I heard the same arguments from them, but at 15 is when they got their cell phones. I have never gotten a "surprise" bill and they have been extremely responsible with their calling habits. I also have a 10 year old son and the idea of giving him a cell phone is ludicrous. A ten year old should not be any where there isn't adult supervision. It appears that TV and marketing has done its job if this is even a topic of conversation.

    d

    Posted by DMG August 8, 09 07:00 PM
  1. As a middle school teacher I can tell you kids are not ready for a phone at 12. We' ve had several incidents of girls sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to boys, then having them passed around. Most of these types of incidents never make the news ! It's the sixth graders sending the "today is be mean to Suzie Q day" then they forward it on and on... I am telling you it's generally not the eighth graders who do these things it is the 11 and 12 year olds, more often than not these are "good kids" who get caught up in this type of behavior. If you "have to " get them a phone for goodness sake don't allow texting!

    Posted by Eli August 8, 09 10:33 PM
  1. This is a subject where what is "right" is different for each family. For some families having the cell phone at 10 or 11 is what is best for them. For others such as our family, that won't be happening as it is not necessary. There is no need to be so dogmatic about having one or not. No need to be putting each other down. Look at your individual family, the situations, and needs that arise for you, not someone else. Just make sure you are not judging someone for doing something different. I do have to say though, the argument that "all the other kids have one" is a weak argument and I find it sad that a psychologist is telling people their children need one because they might be left out. Does this mean my child should be allowed to party and get drunk because "all the other kids are doing it and they will be in the minority"!

    Posted by Bostonbells August 8, 09 10:33 PM
  1. Mommies can't have children who don't have cell-phones (the more expensive the better). How will this mom look in front of the other moms? Daddy better cough up the money.

    Posted by unproperbostonian August 8, 09 11:03 PM
  1. I'm sorry but this is just a big juicy rationalization for not being able to say no to your child.

    Taking my son's phone away is a rationalization for not being able to say no? How? -- LMA

    Posted by Old Dude August 9, 09 10:18 AM
  1. Kids should get cell phones by the time they are 16 or 17. That is when they are most likely to be in a car accident or jailed.

    This will never get posted by the happy fluffy Globe.

    Posted by Ofetid1 August 9, 09 10:35 AM
  1. Policy in my town's school system:

    1. Elementary and middle school: no cell phones in school, anywhere, ever. Cell phones in use are confiscated and not returned till end of day, parent contacted.
    2. High school. Designated areas of school only. In classrooms: never.

    I repeat: if you don't want your child texting, disable texting on the phone. Real simple. If you don't want them exchanging pictures or buying ringtones, expect them to pay in some way for those items, or else take away the phone.

    Afraid that their self-esteem will be damaged because they don't supposedly have what all the other kids have? That's unfortunate


    Posted by ava August 9, 09 01:06 PM
  1. My daughter got her cell phone when she was 11 and started coming home to an empty house after school. I disabled texting and she has been very responsible with it. The only time she got in trouble was when her father (!) called when she was in class.
    She is now lobbying very hard for texting. I haven't made up my mind on that one.

    Posted by Beth August 9, 09 04:37 PM
  1. "Old enough" is when the child is a) old enough to pay for the phone and the monthly charges and b) old enough to use it responsibly. I would say between 15 and 16, for a guess.

    The idea that children need constant entertainment and diversion; or that there need to be "precautionary measures" is pure nonsense and goes a long way towards explaining why we have so many hovering over-protective parents. Most children who are 11 or 12 are old enough to be left alone for a couple of hours - I strongly recommend it for their future maturity.

    Posted by Theodore G. Fletcher August 9, 09 08:38 PM
  1. I got my then 12 year old son his first cell phone the day after 9/11. It allowed him to call home and check in, which was good for all of us. As a city kid, he rode the T a lot, and I would ask him to just call me and let me know he had reached his destination. It was also a way to increase his independence as he got older, because he could call if he had a change of plans - could he go to a friend's house, meet his friends at Starbucks, whatever. All he needed to do was call and ask. During the school day, the phone was turned OFF and left in his locker, according to school rules. The cell phone, during his school days, was a way of keeping him safe and keeping me from being worried crazy during a tense ti me for m parents and children.


    or email, and continue to sstay in touch. The ell phone was a way of keeping him sage, and keeping me from being worried crazy.

    Posted by Carolyn Russ August 9, 09 10:08 PM
  1. Our kids are too little for cell phones, but they have cool new features on them now that make them attractive to parents. One from Verizon is a "chaperone" feature that allows you to see on a map where your kids are (or rather where their cell phones are). Of course this is not fool-proof, but a nice perk. My ultimatum to my kids will be that this feature needs to be active if they want to have a cell phone.

    There are plenty of things we did have when we were kids, but withholding them from our kids for that simple reason is silly.

    Posted by bv August 10, 09 07:56 AM
  1. I got my daughter a cell phone the day after I heard stories from my sister and her friend's about being groped in subways or the bus stops and how the creepy janitor would look at them after school. It might be sad that I can't trust the coach to watch over my daughter after practice or the teacher when she is getting tutored but that is the world we live in. I am happy to know that if anything were to happen she could call me or 911 quickly if anything went wrong. It isn't like a not having a cell phone is going to stop sexting or other bad conduct, just makes it easier. And I'd rather deal with bullying than being attacked and raped.

    Posted by Deme August 10, 09 07:55 PM
  1. Can I just add that if you are going to get your kids cell phones, teach them some cell phone etiquette/safety? I think I wouldn't hate the things so much if people used them politely. But when I see young women walking alone, at night, yammering on their cell phone and oblivious to the world, I think "Hmm, if I were a mugger, she would look like a great target!". Or chatting on a crowded T car with your purse hanging half open - pickpockets paradise! Or when I saw 4 young cousins at a recent family memorial service, sitting through the entire luncheon texting/playing with their phones. Sorry, phones should be left in the car on such an occasion. If you are at a girl scout event, you should be participating, not checking your messages. Giving them these toys and not providing them guidance to go with them is just not good parenting.

    Posted by BMS August 12, 09 09:05 AM
  1. Providing guidance on cell phone use and pitfalls of owning one AND the possible trouble you can get into is good parenting. Even still kids these days can get into trouble with their cell phones. My son had an incident last spring thanks to someone giving out his phone number. He started getting texts and attempts were made to share photos. This put me into research mode ... I spent hours on google and all the various provider websites comparing options for a cell phone for a minor. I found Kajeet and my life has been simpler ever since I handed my son a Kajeet phone. I have been on a soapbox about them ever since. Most recently I joined their mom sales team. I encourage you to visit www.kajeet.com/gwen

    Posted by Gwen August 13, 09 10:59 PM
  1. Parents are continually complaining that their children don't communicate with them. Working your way into their world can be like cracking a safe. But if you're willing to meet them in their world, you may find that parent-child communication will expand.
    I, too, was once skeptical about giving my tween a cell phone. But with the number of options available to the well-researched parent consumer, I feel confident that cell phones can be a win-win. My tween daughter is much more likely to text me than to call. And she is more than compliant with the parental controls I've set up in exchange for the easy-to-revoke privilege of a cell phone.

    Posted by Deb Dunham August 20, 09 06:45 PM
  1. My 8th grader has had one since 6th grade and because she's involved in so many after school activities it gives me peace of mind to know I can always reach her. Because of economic distress however, I just let our 2 year Verizon plan expire and got her a pre-paid Net10 at Walmart. The beauty is that the service is carried by either Verizon or AT&T, so it has everywhere-coverage, yet I only pay 10 cents per call or text. It's impossible for her to rack up high bills and again, it gives me a sense that she'll be safer and at easy reach at a moment's notice.

    Posted by Martina August 24, 09 11:42 AM
  1. I think that safety comes first and if a cell phone could help my kids when they have a problem then why not give them one especially when they are so cheap. I bought my kids their first cell phones this summer, I found a really good deal for the Motorola W376 from Tracfone with DMFL for less than $30 each, They came with camera, bluetooth, web access, radio and built-in games. Now I can feel a little easier when they go riding their bikes or to the mall with friends.

    Posted by Panache August 28, 09 11:16 AM
  1. my name is aureia and i want a touch screen phone

    Posted by aureia butler August 29, 09 08:42 PM
  1. I think the age for kids to get cell phones really depend on their level of maturity. As a mom, it's very convenient for my kids to have cell phones - makes coordinating pick up time and dinner much easier. I don't have a problem with getting kids cell phone b/c it's actually very practical. What I do have problem with is getting kids the latest and greatest phones out there which I think it's totally unnecessary and a little spoiling. For a first time phone, I'd say get one that's prepaid, like TracFone so there's no risk of crazy bills.

    Posted by Meesha September 30, 09 11:13 PM
  1. Hi, I thirteen and received a phone for christmas last year. I paid for half the actual phone cost, I have a low amount of texts, and I take the bus home. Having a cell phone has let my parents feel comfortable with my new level of independence, it's made it easier for me to socialize as well (although it may sound trivial). I go to a small private school were only one girl and I were the only ones with out a cell phone, it was strange and difficult to make plans with my friends for the weekends and it is still strange not to be able to text which has been a big attraction from my fellow classmates. I'm writing an essay on the use of cell phones and I think you should give your kid a cell phone on certain conditions that very by child, kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages. I know a 6 yr. old who got a cell phone, thats way too much! I have my phone because I want to be able to be independent, Im a teenager who's had straight A's since they gave us A's but I still didn't get a cell then, I don't have my own computer (I use my moms) and my brother got his cell phone in high school when he had to take the train at 6 every mourning. Every case is different but if you give cell phones at an early age that will lead to more and more materialistic unnecessary items. Im happy about when I got my phone, I felt so connected to my friend who lives in another city! Its a responsibility, and your kid needs to handle that part, you can not.

    Posted by Me October 23, 09 12:15 AM
  1. NEWS FLASH! Your child of 10! can by her own phone! You will not be involved. They go to the store. Buy a phone. Pay money on it. And it's theirs. You will not have the number.You may not even know about it. And on Facebook there is a page on which they all broadcast their numbers to the world: "Just got my new phone need numbers." With all the work done to protect kids' identities, this does not make any sense. Madison Avenue is putting your child at risk. I see so many CHILDREN with cell phones, a little family member included. I asked where she got it. She said, "I saved up and bought it." Last night I called Virgin Mobile to ask what their official policy is. Their pages are unclear. One page stated "13," yet when one signs up, one must state that one must declare s/he is over 18. No ID check required. BUT VIRGIN SAID, "They have to be at least ten." What?! I asked "How do you veryify their age?" The rep told me: "We enter it in a computer." Now I know why they ALL have phones whether you know it or not. I am not okay with this! You might want to check it out.

    Posted by anonymous (I am a teacher) February 12, 10 06:56 AM
  1. my grandson is seven and he has had a cell phone since he was 4 years old. his 1st phone was called a AMIGO it had a 5 buttons to program. the middle one being 911. His mom had cancer and he was told how to call for help he kept it with him at all times so he could call 911 if his mom was in trouble. he could also call dad @ work or me or his Papa. He was very responsible for a little boy and I felt so much better knowing he can call us if he needs us. It also has a tracking device too.

    Posted by mel April 28, 10 11:50 PM
  1. The surge of cell phone use is utterly ridiculous. As an early childhood educator, I have two children in our center who have their own cell phones. They are brothers, ages 7 and 4-1/2. Because they whined for these tools, the parents gave in and as an excuse that the phones were free with their plan and that they would be good for the boys because "texting would help with spelling," these two children now have phones of their very own. Whats next, free TVs to be put into their bedrooms so that they play "apartment?" How about a free car? Then they could be put behind the wheel to help them with timing and direction. Parents, just say "no." Be a parent, would you?

    Posted by ND September 28, 10 10:00 AM
  1. I got my first cell phone at 17! And it wasn't even a smart phone. Kids under the age of 15 don't need a cell phone. Sorry but spoiling your kids early on will never teach them how to work for rewards. They will just assume they will always receive for doing nothing.

    Posted by Thomas December 26, 12 12:25 PM
 
62 comments so far...
  1. Are you crazy or do you work for Verizon? I, and all of my peers, stood at the bus stop, and went to the library, and the mall, all without cell phones. Who are these experts who say that children should automatically take part in our consumer-driven technologies? As bad as second-hand smoke? Perhaps it is. We're now pushing instant gratification as a right, instead of promoting effort and achievement over time. I didn't even have a phone in my room until I was in high school. Somehow I survived.

    Definitely don't work for Verizon. On the fence about the crazy. As for the cell phone question... it's something a lot of parents wonder about, which is why I put it out there. Thanks for weighing in. -- LMA

    Posted by Kat Warnick August 6, 09 04:53 PM
  1. 50+ years ago when I was that age, I regularly took the bus from my small town to Camden, NJ to go to the "Y". No cell phones, only the availability of a phone booth on most corners. I know times have changed, but it seems to me that we parents do not need to be in constant touch (read that control) with our children. Some level of independence is part of the maturing process. And these children do not need to be in constant touch with their cohort. Some other model of raising our children will work better and produce more successful adults.

    Posted by Rick klotz August 6, 09 04:57 PM
  1. My 10 year old daughter is constantly harassing me for a cell phone, why, "because all my friends have one". This is not exactly true, the reality is that all her friends in single parent households have a cell phone, for the reasons stated by LMA. I continue to tell my daughter that she does not need a phone because she is not in the same situation as her friends with phones.

    Personally I do not like all this technology and instant contact. I don't like others having the ability to "track" me down. It is not uncommon for my cell phone to ring if I do not answer my work or home phone as the caller will try all three numbers to reach me, and it has never been an emergency situation.

    I also do not like the fact that tweens and teens spend all their time texting, rather than looking people in the face and having a convesation. This constant contact prevents our children (and the work obsessed) from being able to spend quiet time with their own thoughts. Our chldren are no longer able to appreciate "down" time.

    Kat Warnick above mentions having a phone in her room. I had to get married to have a phone (and television) in my room. These are true luxeries (in my opinion) and are not necessary for my children.

    Rant over.

    Posted by alp August 6, 09 05:29 PM
  1. I attended an interesting class for parents about kids and technology a few months ago. It was recommended to us parents that if we felt a child needed a cell phone as young as ten or eleven, to make it the kind of program that would only allow calls to a few limited numbers, and absolutely NOT to give them the ability to text until they were 15 at a minimum. They simply don't need that (not that anyone really does) and most kids as a rule are not mature enough to handle these additional ways in which they can be cruel to one another. Seems sensible enough to me.

    The fact that we did without it 50 years ago is irrelevant. Pay phones are few and far between if they even work, and at that point good luck to you to put 50 cents in and make a call. You need a calling card with 872 digits to make it go through. The days of giving them a dime for their penny loafers in case they need to make a call have passed. When used sensibly and appropriately, I don't see anything wrong with giving them the ability to call home from where ever they are.

    Posted by RH August 6, 09 05:41 PM
  1. There's aren't any phone booths or pay phones anymore.
    Nowadays, if you need to use a phone away from home, you need to have or borrow a cell phone. Do you want your kid asking strangers to borrow their phone?

    Definitely pre-paid is the way to go, so they can't spend a fortune. There are cheap (

    Posted by Cheapskate August 6, 09 05:56 PM
  1. I think this is an important question that deserves some discussion (which I think LMA has given). As someone well over fifty, I think you people need to get your heads out of the sand. It is not 50 years ago, there are no public phones on every corner, mommy isn't at home baking cookies when you come home from school, and there are a lot more bad guys out there after kids. What was good for us 50 years ago probably doesn't work nowadays. Anytime you hear yourself saying "I didn't have (fill in blank) and I survived," it's a good bet you're talking like a (jealous) old fart grossly out of touch with today's realities. A cell phone is an important part of giving kids more independence, Rick. That was the point of the four questions. A cell phone isn't about instant gratification, its about a new level of responsibility for a child. Clearly the son who racked up $300+ in charges didn't get the difference between gratification and responsibility, and lost ability to have his cell phone. Some elements of parenting are different now from when we were kids, and that's okay.

    Posted by Nancy G August 6, 09 05:57 PM
  1. We told our daughter that the phone is for emergencies, and that we can find out about every call and text message she makes/receives. If she makes contact anyone but us, we take her phone, which means she won't be allowed to bike to school. She hides her phone from her friends, so there's no pressure for her to use it. We pay for it, we can set the rules. Having it doesn't mean it needs to be used much, like car (or life) insurance.

    By the way, we live in the city, and there are plenty of ways for kids to get into a bind between home and school. Back in the old days, cars didn't have seat belts in the back and drunk driving was acceptable, and most kids made it. Do we need to do things the old way when there's a better way?

    Posted by craftsman August 6, 09 06:34 PM
  1. I'm a single parent and a cell phone for my then 11-year old made sense.

    Texting not enabled. Purpose of phone was to stay in touch wtih me, or her friends if they had phones. There were basic ground rules (such as no purchasing of ringtones w/o permission). If ground rules broken, phone confiscated and given back only when necessary - and allowance forfeited in the amount charged.

    I ignored grousing from other parents who thought 11 was too young. Many of them were stay at home moms, with spouses, who did not face some of the challenges I faced at the time.

    Maybe I am from another planet, but can someone tell me know it's so hard to set reasonable limits, and follow through on them? The child who racks up $300 in charges - was he expected to take some age-appropirate responsibility for that??? or did we stop at "he's just not ready"?

    Thanks for your comment, Ava. While my son did have to chip in to help pay that $300 bill, the incident showed us that he clearly was not ready for a cell phone of his own. He thought the ringtones he was downloading directly to his phone were like the free music samples, and he didn't understand that you get charged for receiving text messages as well as sending them, and gave his number to his school friends so they could "say hi." So while he had to take some responsibility, I think the fault was mainly ours. -- LMA

    Posted by ava August 6, 09 06:38 PM
  1. We gave our now 14yo son a GoPhone on his 13th birthday - part of a "rite of passage" for becoming a teenager. We pay for the daily charge and some calls for periods only when we think he needs it - for example, when he's on a weekend trip with a class, or a summer program he's just returned from. If he wants to use it more (including texting), he contributes to refill it.

    So far, so good...he does complain that he "needs" unlimited texting like his friends. AT&T (which operates GoPhone) has just introduced a plan for 1000 text messages for $8, and he can do that if he wants (so far, he hasn't wanted to).

    Posted by Liz August 6, 09 06:51 PM
  1. alp, I totally agree with you. My 11-year-old step-daughter has a phone that her mom bought her two years ago. She is generally a pretty responsible kid, but so far as managed to accidentally destroy two phones in less than two years. I wouldn't have replaced the first one, never mind the second one, but I'm not the one who gets a say in that situation, nor do I pay the bill. She lives 1/4 mile from her school, her mom is home, and when she's at our house her dad and I both have cell phones and a landline so I don't get the point of having one.

    That said, my 11-year-old son does not have a phone and will not have one any time soon. He is either at school, in a supervised program where adults are around, or with his friends, most of whom have phones so if needed in an "emergency" he can reach me and I can reach him through his friends. Most kids I know this age who have phones use them as toys, accessories, or entertainment, not a communication device. As such, my kids will get phones when they can demonstrate a need for them and when they can pay the bill themselves - age 13, with no web, camera, video or text features, seems like a reasonable start for us. The first phone will be a gift - you lose or destroy it, buy a new one yourself.

    Posted by Jen August 6, 09 06:54 PM
  1. It's distressing that a phrase like "to visit his other set of parents" can be tossed out as simply an example of a situation where a child might benefit from having a cell phone.

    Surely the author would not so casually offer "to see his cancer specialist" or "to come home on weekend furloughs from his juvenile detention center" as additional examples, yet the "other set of parents" reference bespeaks similarly tragic circumstances that in my (retrograde?) opinion are worthy of more respectful treatment.

    I appreciate what you're saying, Mark, but it's not disrespectful to acknowledge that our older children have another set of parents whom we consider to be as important a part of their lives as we are. Visitation involves travel, sometimes without an adult present, and it's a valid reason to give kids another way to communucate, in my opinion. --LMA

    Posted by Mark Wilcox August 7, 09 12:11 AM
  1. My 10 year old daughter has one, but she has been gone frequently during the summer at various multiple-day overnight excursions with friends and extended family.

    She likes to take pictures to send us and also sends my husband and I text messages. My job makes frequent use of text messaging. My husband gets his work email on his phone.

    When her friends call home and she is gone, I'll text her the message so she can return her friend's calls.

    She hasn't gotten to the point of wanting to call/text friends all the time, so we haven't needed to set any limits, and she enjoys the trust and responsibility we place in her by letting her have her own phone.

    When school resumes, she won't be taking it with her unless she has after school plans, most days she returns home on the bus, so the phone will stay home. It sits in a drawer in a common area, where it remains off and I keep it charged up for her use.

    I would worry more about not giving a younger chlid a phone until they were 14-16, whereas that would be peak time for abuse, constant contact with friends, thousands of text messages, etc. By the time my daughter is 13, 14, she'll have had use of a phone for a few years and much of the novelty will have worn off. I also bet in 3-4 years, every single kid will be carrying one. The GPS tracker in the iPhone is handy, I assume you can determine the location of your phone at any time remotely.

    Posted by Michele August 7, 09 01:40 AM
  1. Put them on the family plan, but get them a bare bones phone and block texting both in and out. You can also block a phone from making calls or receiving calls except from specific numbers (like parents, grand parents, etc).

    Why do people seem to ignore this fact and then act shocked when they get a huge phone bill. If you don't want your child doing it then dont' get them a phone with that capability.

    Posted by C August 7, 09 01:49 AM
  1. I plan to get a phone for my oldest when he's permitted to walk home from school without an adult (to an empty house). My guess is that he will be 11 and entering 6th grade. There will be strict limits set up, and he will be expected to comply. If he manages to rack up an enormous bill, he will have to earn money to help pay it off, in addition to losing the privilege of a phone.

    We were recently at a family event where the teenagers (ranging from 12-19) all had phones and spent the entire time texting with friends instead of interacting with the people surrounding them. It was really sad, and I don't want that for my kids.

    Posted by akmom August 7, 09 06:57 AM
  1. So then why didn't some adult speak up and say "Enough is enough, you're with family now, put the phones away?"

    Posted by sparky August 7, 09 09:53 AM
  1. I see the same happeneing with my nephew and his DS. Same as a phone for a 12 year old. At his birthday party, he was off on his own playing is DS instead of interacting with HIS guests. He barely looked up at me when I was saying good-bye. His parents wonder why I don't get him any new games for Christmasor his birthday. I get him model airplanes to build, and the like. I can see this type of technology coming in handy when there is a definiteband absulote NEED for it, but for everyday use by a tween or teen is unwarranted; they is no personal interaction anymore with kids; they wonder why they are bored all the time if they don't have their "toys". FYI, I'm only in my mid 30's.

    Posted by Old School August 7, 09 10:55 AM
  1. My daughter just got her first cell phone at the end of 8th grade. Up until now, she has always been driven to and from events or was with an adult. Coming in to high school, things are a bit different.

    That doesn't mean she didn't pressure us for a phone for the last 3+ years. I just don't agree that a younger kid "needs" a phone. Even now, my daughter has rules she must abide by or she will lose the privilege.

    Posted by QuigLewis August 7, 09 11:04 AM
  1. This is such good timing.. we were just talking about this at work! I was at the neighborhood playground last night and an 11 year old was complaining because she doesn't have a touch screen.. neither do I , poor thing. (I am 34)
    She said that she does texting all the time. Then a younger boy joined in and said that someone he knows in 1st grade brings a phone to school all the time. Man, I feel like an elderly person in my thinking but this is way to young to start all this. I had to beg my parents for my own phone line when I was 16 and had a job to pay for the bill.

    Whomever is letting their young children text, beware. You have no supervision over them and who knows who they are texting. Also, beware of letting them use Facebook and Twitter. I predict, many lives will be destroyed over the imappropriateness of what is getting posted on these sites. My company is using Facebook a tool when they are screening candidates, FYI!

    Posted by Techno Mom August 7, 09 11:13 AM
  1. My kids have phones, but they don't text and they have to put them (and the iThings) away when told to or they lose them.

    Yes, we all used phone booths and we were all just fine as kids ... problem is, what is a phone booth? What do they look like? Where can they be found? Oh yes, they are but a mythic antique of the past ... which is why my kids have cheap phones.

    Oh yah - thanks for putting Mark in his place. Why is it "tragic" that some kids have four loving, engaged, and concerned parents rather than two miserable ones? Grow up.

    Posted by infoferret August 7, 09 11:21 AM
  1. There's no appropriate age for a kid to have a cell phone, it's got to do with how mature they are to handle one. For a couple of years i used the same excuse that years ago we survived w/o the technology, but truth be told, there's more population nowadays, and with mental problems to boot! There's alot more traffic and with that, road rage! So u never know what's gonna happen. Do u really want ur child in a situation like that without being able to call or get in contact with someone for help? My tween twins wanted one, i told'm not till they were in high school, but my sis-n-law got'm both one! i was pissed but soon realized that they were mature enough to handle one they never use it innapropriately. At first it was only for emergency calls and to call mobile to mobile, then, after their hard work n responsibility, my sis-n-law added text, which they use only when necessary. I'm very proud of my kids, now, for the 6 year old, (soon to be 7), I'm having a hard time making him understand that he's too young for one, but the twins have had theirs for a few years so he thinks it's time for him to have one too. I know that my seven year old will mature way later than the twins. So no Cell phone for him!

    Posted by karina vega August 7, 09 12:13 PM
  1. Yes my 13 year old has a cell phone. My ex-wife and I gave it to him when he was 11. After 2 years with the same phone, he finally exchanged it for a new one. Yes with two families and two houses a cell phone is essential. Our son is fine with two houses and there is nothing "tragic" about it. Out of his 7th grade class of 21 kids, 13 had cell phones. Times have changed and parents are not keeping up with those changes. Using excuses of what it was like when we were kids as being sufficient is not based in reality. This is a great way to have a dialogue with your 10, 11 or 12 year old. Great article.

    Posted by Michael August 7, 09 12:14 PM
  1. Techno Mom wrote:

    "My company is using Facebook a tool when they are screening candidates, FYI!"


    How do they do this if your profile is set to private and only viewable by friends? I'm certainly not going to grant friendship to a potential employer!

    I've even removed my profile from Google (it's a privacy setting), so if you google my name and facebook, you won't get the FB-generated public version of my profile.

    Posted by Mike August 7, 09 01:20 PM
  1. I'm 38 and I still don't have a cell phone. And I have no plans to get cell phones for my kids. I just don't see constant electronic connection to be necessary. Without a cell phone, my kids will have to plan ahead. They will have to tell me where they are going before they go, and make plans for how we will meet up and where. They have enough trouble remembering their lunch boxes and jackets. There is no way I am giving them a piece of electronics to lose.

    Somehow, I commuted an hour each way to high school in downtown Chicago, on public transit, without a cell phone. Contrary to what everyone seems to think, public phones are still available in train stations, many museums, and so on. I also think that they can walk around our town without me knowing exactlly where they are at each moment. I would rather use the cell phone money to get them some self defense/martial arts training than get them used to calling me every 5 minutes instead of thinking things through on their own.

    Posted by BMS August 7, 09 01:27 PM
  1. Personally, I would never have given any of my 5 children (...they're all grown now) a cell phone, and I see absolutely not reason children should have them, especially when in school (...I actually think they should be banned from school as an detrimental distraction to the education process). That being said, if a teenager (not a child any younger) absolutely needs a phone for some reason, then he/she should get a job and pay for it themselves & be fully accountable/responsible for it. Generally, I think that alone will determine what kind of phone & calling plan they get. Then guidelines/rules need to be set by the parents as to what the phone will be used for what's acceptable & what's not, etc. Once again, such phones do NOT belong in school or otherwise be a distraction.

    Posted by IronManCC August 7, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Since when is having a cell phone a responsibility for a child? Now that's funny and a nice excuse to spend money for nothing.

    A newspaper route is responsibility.

    Posted by Barb August 7, 09 03:43 PM
  1. Get a grip folks. My kids have a phone because they are spoiled. They want one, don't need one. It is fun for them, not a responsibility. You can mask it as a responsibility issue if that makes you feel good as a delusional parent. You want your kids to feel like they are part of the In group, having a cell phone at 10. ( maybe because you weren't) Because if they break it, you know damn well you will buy them a new one and not make them pay for it, so where is the responsibility. We need to know where are kids are at every minute of every day, it is sickening.. .......................Guilty as charged

    Posted by GetAgrip August 7, 09 04:34 PM
  1. There are alternative options to prepaid for people looking for inexpensive cell service for their kids. Some cellular service providers offer the benefits of pre-paid (i.e. no contracts) with the convenience of post-paid. For example, I work with a cellular provider called Consumer Cellular that offers post-paid billing with no contracts, so customers can change their usage plan without penalty, whenever they want. If your child racks up lots of minutes or texts for example, you don’t have to take it on the chin with overage charges. You can simply bump up the plan without penalty. Yes, you have to pay more for your child’s irresponsible behavior, but it sure beats a monthly bill of hundreds of dollars. Plus, you can cancel the service at any time without an early termination fees.

    Posted by Consumer Cellular August 7, 09 04:59 PM
  1. Live IS possible without a cell phone. But it DOES makes life easier to give a phone to a child at about 11-12, when mom and dad are not hovering over every single activity and social event!

    And back in so-called good old days, mom was usually home, as were most moms, and there were pay phones all over the place (10 cents for a local call).

    Please, single parenthood/ two households is not an "excuse" for giving a child a phone. But they help when you need to stay in touch with the child, and arrange to pick them up, etc. The kiddies don't while away their afternoons at the local park anymore...they are scheduled to the max with every structured activity you can imagine - right, moms and dads?

    1. Dad lives 100 miles away. Regardless of whether it should be this way, this way, it is what it is. Dad cannot always just swing by.
    2. I am at work, all day.
    3. Nearest relative is next town over and does not drive.
    4. Other parents can and do help, but my child is my resopnsibility not theirs.
    5. When was the last time you saw a pay phone?
    6. This is an opportunity to learn about and handle responsibility.

    okay?

    Posted by ava August 7, 09 06:25 PM
  1. It astonishes me that both of the authors of this piece are parenting consultants and are absolutely uninformed about the thousands of studies that have been done that link radio frequency radiation from cell phones, towers, wi fi and toys to brain cancer, early alzheimer's, focus and concentration problems, mouth cancer (a recent israeli study confirmed this) immune disfunction, cell and DNA damage and a host of other acute and chronic problems. It seems that our entire country is devoid of information and curiosity about this while everyone wanders about staring at their cell phones in a wireless trance. http://www.wirelesswatchblog.com check it out
    europe

    Posted by david em August 7, 09 09:53 PM
  1. There are 28 comments to this article, some pro phones, some cons and not one addresses the health concerns. This is frightening and at the same time a testament to how much our media is controlled. In Europe where most of the studies are done that links cell phones, towers, and wi fi to cancer and other health problems they are dismantling wi fi and removing it from schools and libraries. In france cell phone sales to children have been banned as has advertising cell phones to kids. Israel just banned all wireless products for home use. The french parliament has had emergency meetings to find ways to lessen public exposure to RF from cell towers. Meanwhile here in the United States we are installing wi fi in all the schools and putting cell phones into kids hands in the guise of using them as a n educational tool. i am sure that bribes are being handed out and everyone is getting rich including the healthcare industry.

    Posted by david em August 7, 09 10:18 PM
  1. Just as a matter of note, I live in a very small town, and in the short drive from my work to home, I pass at least 2 pay phones, depending on the route. If you need to ask where the pay phones are, take your eyes off the text screen and look around. By the way, I am a teacher and I constantly have to ask students to put the cell phones away. They text their friends and even their parents text or phone them while they are at school. This has happened several times, and the kids have admitted to me that not once has it been for an emergency. The parents need to grow up as much as the kids.

    Posted by Patches02 August 7, 09 10:30 PM
  1. Handle responsibility? In what sense? You don't say.

    Posted by SettleDown August 8, 09 12:32 AM
  1. It depends on the kid. I was a latchkey kid at 7, had my first job at 11 (delivering newspapers), and was riding the bus 15 miles to school at 12. I was in plenty of situations where a cell phone would have been useful. One that comes to mind was in 5th grade, when school was dismissed early because of snow, but the principal would not let students call their parents.

    Unlike 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago, pay phones are disappearing. The emergency dime is now 4 emergency quarters. Family plans, especially prepaid family plans (like Cricket) make it easy to control when kids talk, how much they talk, and who they talk to.

    Posted by Liz August 8, 09 03:28 AM
  1. We just gave our 12 yr old his first phone so he can contact us in an emergency when he is not at school and traveling. He does use it to stay in contact wit his friends and he's becoming more socially independent as a result.
    Growing up we didn't text- we wrote . We didn't e-mail, we phoned. It's a different world now. Kids text to stay in contact. Cell phones are everywhere. It's our job as parents to teach responsibility.

    Posted by p August 8, 09 07:15 AM
  1. I have a 17 year old, a 13 year old and an 11 year old. The older two each have cellphones. They have a phone that has limits on minutes, but unlimited texting. The texting has been a real boon. It lets me leave them messages and ensure that they see them. (Imagine the nagging potential.) It lets them send me messages that I can check in situations where I cannot listen to a phone message. And, they know that I can and do check their message logs. It lets me keep track of who and what is in their lives since neither my husband nor I are able to be with them 24/7.

    Posted by Karen August 8, 09 09:28 AM
  1. I teach college students. I get the kids who have had cell phones since they were 13 and CANNOT turn them off. They can't go through a whole 70 minute class without flipping the phone open 5 times, texting, leaving the room to take a call, etc. etc. These are people who are (or their parents are) paying thousands and thousands of dollars to hear what I have to say, and yet they can't bear to disconnect from the phone. This habit had to come from somewhere. If I can't get 20 year olds to hang up and pay attention, how do I expect a 12 year old to not get distracted by it? Unless I don't let them carry it to school. Which, if they don't have it with them, sort of defeats the purpose.

    Posted by BMS August 8, 09 10:33 AM
  1. Ok, Ok...so we all grew up without cell phones. Does that mean this generation's young folks shouldn't have one? My grandparents didn't have a toilet in the house. Should I board up my bathroom? How many of you are willing to give up your TV because your parents didn't have one? Its called advancement. We don't have to love all of it but we do have to decide how to deal with it, especially when children are involved.

    My only beef- worse than an adult answering a phone at the dinner table is a child doing the same. Teach manners as part of that responsibility.

    Posted by sandra August 8, 09 11:55 AM
  1. This one is a no-brainer. When the kid is old enough to buy it and pay the monthly bill. We survived long before cell phones, we can certainly do without them now.

    Posted by Chloe-OBrien August 8, 09 03:33 PM
  1. My 21 year old twins got their cell phones when they got their driving permits. I heard the same arguments from them, but at 15 is when they got their cell phones. I have never gotten a "surprise" bill and they have been extremely responsible with their calling habits. I also have a 10 year old son and the idea of giving him a cell phone is ludicrous. A ten year old should not be any where there isn't adult supervision. It appears that TV and marketing has done its job if this is even a topic of conversation.

    d

    Posted by DMG August 8, 09 07:00 PM
  1. As a middle school teacher I can tell you kids are not ready for a phone at 12. We' ve had several incidents of girls sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to boys, then having them passed around. Most of these types of incidents never make the news ! It's the sixth graders sending the "today is be mean to Suzie Q day" then they forward it on and on... I am telling you it's generally not the eighth graders who do these things it is the 11 and 12 year olds, more often than not these are "good kids" who get caught up in this type of behavior. If you "have to " get them a phone for goodness sake don't allow texting!

    Posted by Eli August 8, 09 10:33 PM
  1. This is a subject where what is "right" is different for each family. For some families having the cell phone at 10 or 11 is what is best for them. For others such as our family, that won't be happening as it is not necessary. There is no need to be so dogmatic about having one or not. No need to be putting each other down. Look at your individual family, the situations, and needs that arise for you, not someone else. Just make sure you are not judging someone for doing something different. I do have to say though, the argument that "all the other kids have one" is a weak argument and I find it sad that a psychologist is telling people their children need one because they might be left out. Does this mean my child should be allowed to party and get drunk because "all the other kids are doing it and they will be in the minority"!

    Posted by Bostonbells August 8, 09 10:33 PM
  1. Mommies can't have children who don't have cell-phones (the more expensive the better). How will this mom look in front of the other moms? Daddy better cough up the money.

    Posted by unproperbostonian August 8, 09 11:03 PM
  1. I'm sorry but this is just a big juicy rationalization for not being able to say no to your child.

    Taking my son's phone away is a rationalization for not being able to say no? How? -- LMA

    Posted by Old Dude August 9, 09 10:18 AM
  1. Kids should get cell phones by the time they are 16 or 17. That is when they are most likely to be in a car accident or jailed.

    This will never get posted by the happy fluffy Globe.

    Posted by Ofetid1 August 9, 09 10:35 AM
  1. Policy in my town's school system:

    1. Elementary and middle school: no cell phones in school, anywhere, ever. Cell phones in use are confiscated and not returned till end of day, parent contacted.
    2. High school. Designated areas of school only. In classrooms: never.

    I repeat: if you don't want your child texting, disable texting on the phone. Real simple. If you don't want them exchanging pictures or buying ringtones, expect them to pay in some way for those items, or else take away the phone.

    Afraid that their self-esteem will be damaged because they don't supposedly have what all the other kids have? That's unfortunate


    Posted by ava August 9, 09 01:06 PM
  1. My daughter got her cell phone when she was 11 and started coming home to an empty house after school. I disabled texting and she has been very responsible with it. The only time she got in trouble was when her father (!) called when she was in class.
    She is now lobbying very hard for texting. I haven't made up my mind on that one.

    Posted by Beth August 9, 09 04:37 PM
  1. "Old enough" is when the child is a) old enough to pay for the phone and the monthly charges and b) old enough to use it responsibly. I would say between 15 and 16, for a guess.

    The idea that children need constant entertainment and diversion; or that there need to be "precautionary measures" is pure nonsense and goes a long way towards explaining why we have so many hovering over-protective parents. Most children who are 11 or 12 are old enough to be left alone for a couple of hours - I strongly recommend it for their future maturity.

    Posted by Theodore G. Fletcher August 9, 09 08:38 PM
  1. I got my then 12 year old son his first cell phone the day after 9/11. It allowed him to call home and check in, which was good for all of us. As a city kid, he rode the T a lot, and I would ask him to just call me and let me know he had reached his destination. It was also a way to increase his independence as he got older, because he could call if he had a change of plans - could he go to a friend's house, meet his friends at Starbucks, whatever. All he needed to do was call and ask. During the school day, the phone was turned OFF and left in his locker, according to school rules. The cell phone, during his school days, was a way of keeping him safe and keeping me from being worried crazy during a tense ti me for m parents and children.


    or email, and continue to sstay in touch. The ell phone was a way of keeping him sage, and keeping me from being worried crazy.

    Posted by Carolyn Russ August 9, 09 10:08 PM
  1. Our kids are too little for cell phones, but they have cool new features on them now that make them attractive to parents. One from Verizon is a "chaperone" feature that allows you to see on a map where your kids are (or rather where their cell phones are). Of course this is not fool-proof, but a nice perk. My ultimatum to my kids will be that this feature needs to be active if they want to have a cell phone.

    There are plenty of things we did have when we were kids, but withholding them from our kids for that simple reason is silly.

    Posted by bv August 10, 09 07:56 AM
  1. I got my daughter a cell phone the day after I heard stories from my sister and her friend's about being groped in subways or the bus stops and how the creepy janitor would look at them after school. It might be sad that I can't trust the coach to watch over my daughter after practice or the teacher when she is getting tutored but that is the world we live in. I am happy to know that if anything were to happen she could call me or 911 quickly if anything went wrong. It isn't like a not having a cell phone is going to stop sexting or other bad conduct, just makes it easier. And I'd rather deal with bullying than being attacked and raped.

    Posted by Deme August 10, 09 07:55 PM
  1. Can I just add that if you are going to get your kids cell phones, teach them some cell phone etiquette/safety? I think I wouldn't hate the things so much if people used them politely. But when I see young women walking alone, at night, yammering on their cell phone and oblivious to the world, I think "Hmm, if I were a mugger, she would look like a great target!". Or chatting on a crowded T car with your purse hanging half open - pickpockets paradise! Or when I saw 4 young cousins at a recent family memorial service, sitting through the entire luncheon texting/playing with their phones. Sorry, phones should be left in the car on such an occasion. If you are at a girl scout event, you should be participating, not checking your messages. Giving them these toys and not providing them guidance to go with them is just not good parenting.

    Posted by BMS August 12, 09 09:05 AM
  1. Providing guidance on cell phone use and pitfalls of owning one AND the possible trouble you can get into is good parenting. Even still kids these days can get into trouble with their cell phones. My son had an incident last spring thanks to someone giving out his phone number. He started getting texts and attempts were made to share photos. This put me into research mode ... I spent hours on google and all the various provider websites comparing options for a cell phone for a minor. I found Kajeet and my life has been simpler ever since I handed my son a Kajeet phone. I have been on a soapbox about them ever since. Most recently I joined their mom sales team. I encourage you to visit www.kajeet.com/gwen

    Posted by Gwen August 13, 09 10:59 PM
  1. Parents are continually complaining that their children don't communicate with them. Working your way into their world can be like cracking a safe. But if you're willing to meet them in their world, you may find that parent-child communication will expand.
    I, too, was once skeptical about giving my tween a cell phone. But with the number of options available to the well-researched parent consumer, I feel confident that cell phones can be a win-win. My tween daughter is much more likely to text me than to call. And she is more than compliant with the parental controls I've set up in exchange for the easy-to-revoke privilege of a cell phone.

    Posted by Deb Dunham August 20, 09 06:45 PM
  1. My 8th grader has had one since 6th grade and because she's involved in so many after school activities it gives me peace of mind to know I can always reach her. Because of economic distress however, I just let our 2 year Verizon plan expire and got her a pre-paid Net10 at Walmart. The beauty is that the service is carried by either Verizon or AT&T, so it has everywhere-coverage, yet I only pay 10 cents per call or text. It's impossible for her to rack up high bills and again, it gives me a sense that she'll be safer and at easy reach at a moment's notice.

    Posted by Martina August 24, 09 11:42 AM
  1. I think that safety comes first and if a cell phone could help my kids when they have a problem then why not give them one especially when they are so cheap. I bought my kids their first cell phones this summer, I found a really good deal for the Motorola W376 from Tracfone with DMFL for less than $30 each, They came with camera, bluetooth, web access, radio and built-in games. Now I can feel a little easier when they go riding their bikes or to the mall with friends.

    Posted by Panache August 28, 09 11:16 AM
  1. my name is aureia and i want a touch screen phone

    Posted by aureia butler August 29, 09 08:42 PM
  1. I think the age for kids to get cell phones really depend on their level of maturity. As a mom, it's very convenient for my kids to have cell phones - makes coordinating pick up time and dinner much easier. I don't have a problem with getting kids cell phone b/c it's actually very practical. What I do have problem with is getting kids the latest and greatest phones out there which I think it's totally unnecessary and a little spoiling. For a first time phone, I'd say get one that's prepaid, like TracFone so there's no risk of crazy bills.

    Posted by Meesha September 30, 09 11:13 PM
  1. Hi, I thirteen and received a phone for christmas last year. I paid for half the actual phone cost, I have a low amount of texts, and I take the bus home. Having a cell phone has let my parents feel comfortable with my new level of independence, it's made it easier for me to socialize as well (although it may sound trivial). I go to a small private school were only one girl and I were the only ones with out a cell phone, it was strange and difficult to make plans with my friends for the weekends and it is still strange not to be able to text which has been a big attraction from my fellow classmates. I'm writing an essay on the use of cell phones and I think you should give your kid a cell phone on certain conditions that very by child, kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages. I know a 6 yr. old who got a cell phone, thats way too much! I have my phone because I want to be able to be independent, Im a teenager who's had straight A's since they gave us A's but I still didn't get a cell then, I don't have my own computer (I use my moms) and my brother got his cell phone in high school when he had to take the train at 6 every mourning. Every case is different but if you give cell phones at an early age that will lead to more and more materialistic unnecessary items. Im happy about when I got my phone, I felt so connected to my friend who lives in another city! Its a responsibility, and your kid needs to handle that part, you can not.

    Posted by Me October 23, 09 12:15 AM
  1. NEWS FLASH! Your child of 10! can by her own phone! You will not be involved. They go to the store. Buy a phone. Pay money on it. And it's theirs. You will not have the number.You may not even know about it. And on Facebook there is a page on which they all broadcast their numbers to the world: "Just got my new phone need numbers." With all the work done to protect kids' identities, this does not make any sense. Madison Avenue is putting your child at risk. I see so many CHILDREN with cell phones, a little family member included. I asked where she got it. She said, "I saved up and bought it." Last night I called Virgin Mobile to ask what their official policy is. Their pages are unclear. One page stated "13," yet when one signs up, one must state that one must declare s/he is over 18. No ID check required. BUT VIRGIN SAID, "They have to be at least ten." What?! I asked "How do you veryify their age?" The rep told me: "We enter it in a computer." Now I know why they ALL have phones whether you know it or not. I am not okay with this! You might want to check it out.

    Posted by anonymous (I am a teacher) February 12, 10 06:56 AM
  1. my grandson is seven and he has had a cell phone since he was 4 years old. his 1st phone was called a AMIGO it had a 5 buttons to program. the middle one being 911. His mom had cancer and he was told how to call for help he kept it with him at all times so he could call 911 if his mom was in trouble. he could also call dad @ work or me or his Papa. He was very responsible for a little boy and I felt so much better knowing he can call us if he needs us. It also has a tracking device too.

    Posted by mel April 28, 10 11:50 PM
  1. The surge of cell phone use is utterly ridiculous. As an early childhood educator, I have two children in our center who have their own cell phones. They are brothers, ages 7 and 4-1/2. Because they whined for these tools, the parents gave in and as an excuse that the phones were free with their plan and that they would be good for the boys because "texting would help with spelling," these two children now have phones of their very own. Whats next, free TVs to be put into their bedrooms so that they play "apartment?" How about a free car? Then they could be put behind the wheel to help them with timing and direction. Parents, just say "no." Be a parent, would you?

    Posted by ND September 28, 10 10:00 AM
  1. I got my first cell phone at 17! And it wasn't even a smart phone. Kids under the age of 15 don't need a cell phone. Sorry but spoiling your kids early on will never teach them how to work for rewards. They will just assume they will always receive for doing nothing.

    Posted by Thomas December 26, 12 12:25 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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