Opinions vary as to what age kids should get their first cell phone. There are advantages and disadvantages involved in the issue.
According to a New York Times article, “Drilling Down: Rapid Rise of Children with Cell Phones” by Alex Mindlin, the number of children with cell phones has doubled. Mindlin cites research done by Mediamark Research and Intelligence which shows that 21.8 % of girls own cell phones compared to 18.3% of boys. MediaMark reported that, of the children surveyed, the majority of children who had cell phones, 36.1%, were children in the 10 to 11-year-old age range. How young is too young for a cell phone? There are pros and cons to young children owning cell phones.
Advantages of Cell Phones for Kids
According to an article posted on About.com, “Kids and Cell Phones” by Vincent Iannelli, M.D., a distinct advantage for parents allowing their children to have cell phones is that they can keep in touch with them, not only for day-to-day practical purposes but for emergency situations as well. Parents who opt to get their children cell phones with a GPS have the added advantage of keeping track of where the children are at all times. This is particularly beneficial for parents of driving teens. They can simply install Phone Tracker and track the movements of their kids.
Though security and safety are the most important reasons for allowing children cell phones, there are other reasons as well. Cell phones help children keep pace with friends who have cell phones, though this could be considered by some as giving in to peer pressure, a negative rather than a positive. Parents who allow their children to have cell phones can teach them responsibility as they will have to learn to care for the phone, avoid losing it, and monitor themselves to ensure they stay within their phone’s plan for calls and texting.
According to the article posted on TMCnet.com, “Your Call: How Young is Too Young for a Cell Phone,” a Nielson study showed that teens send and receive nearly 3,400 texts each month. The article maintains that some parents feel that texting with their children has brought them closer together and improved communication.
The consensus of opinions seems to support the opinion that when children reach the age where they start doing things on their own without their parents or adult supervision, past the ages of 11 to 12, then they should be allowed to have cell phones.
The aforementioned article posted on TMCnet.com asserts that children should only be allowed cell phones once very rigid rules are established and enforced for their use. If children abide by their parents’ rules for owning and using their cell phones, the safety and security aspect makes child cell phone ownership a plausible consideration.
Disadvantages of Cell Phones for Kids
According to the same article Dr. Iannelli above, one risk to children having cell phones is the controversial, yet potential radiation hazard that cell phones present. Citing facts posted in an article on the website, All I Need: “Cell Phones Endanger Children” by Tarak Serrano on May 12, 2010, The National Radiological Protection Board of the United Kingdom, in January 2005, started advising parents not to let their children under the age of 8 use cell phones. They cite evidence that the potentially harmful effect of cell phone use has become increasing persuasive. They base their warning on four studies done in Europe that indicate that the possible radiological hazards of cell phone use have been greatly underestimated.
Another disadvantage to child ownership of cell phones is the expense involved. Quoting Dr. Iannelli in the aforementioned article posted on About.com, “Cell phones can be expensive. Once you get away from a basic plan, you can be hit with extra charges for going over your minutes, sending text messages, buying ringtones, and using the internet. Even with fees for text messages as low as 10 cents each, that can quickly add up if you have an average kid that sends 10 to 20 text messages a day. And that doesn’t include the cost of a replacement phone if your kids lose their phone.”
According to Dr. Iannelli, though the increased independence cell phones offer children can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. With cell phones, children will have another way to communicate with the outside world unsupervised by their parents. Likewise, the outside world, including sex offenders, can communicate with children just as they try to do in chat rooms, hiding behind the anonymity of text messaging.
Considering the advantages and disadvantages to child cell phone ownership, parents themselves must decide if and when their children need cell phones. Parents should, however, make certain their children can handle the responsibility for their cell phones before purchasing them. They should also make certain that their children abide by parental rules for use.