From the Department Of Things We’ll Be Dealing With Sooner Than We Think, Whether We’re Ready For Them Or Not, the “when should we get our kids a cellphone?” question.
S. Craig Watkins, author of The Young and the Digital (Beacon Press, $26.95), says deciding to get a child a mobile phone is family specific. However he has noticed that in the past five years the question has evolved from “Should I get my child a cell phone?” to “When should I get my child a cell phone?”
In 2009, 20 percent of children ages 6-11 owned cell phones, up from 11.9 percent in 2005, according to an American Kids Study by Mediamark Research & Intelligence. The MRI breakdown of cell phone ownership by ages shows: ages 6-7, 6.5 percent in 2009, an increase from 4.9 percent in 2005; ages 8-9, 17.7 percent in 2009, 10.6 percent in 2005; and ages 10-11, 36.1 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2005.
Within a relatively short period, our norms for kids and technology, and kids and cell phones in particular, have shifted, said Watkins, a University of Texas at Austin professor of radio, television and film.
“Kids are requesting cell phones at a younger age, so it really challenges parents, teachers and others to grapple with a whole series of situations as a result,” said Watkins.
Olivia has not brought the subject up herself, which I strongly suspect means that none of her friends have cellphones yet. I figure we have a year, maybe two, before that changes. I suppose for me the main point will be whether or not we think Olivia will be able to keep track of it – like her daddy, she can be absent-minded at times, and at least last year would often forget to bring things home from school. That hasn’t been an issue so far this year, however, so perhaps it’s not so much of a concern any more. We’ll see how much longer it is before she asks. What’s your household’s policy on the matter?