Children and Cell phones slider

Children and Cell Phones – Oh Give Me a Break!

I like to view myself as a laid back person, heck with a past like mine it’s difficult to draw judgement over choices folks make. There are a few things that do rile me up, one of which is the topic of children and cell phones. I don’t mean a teenager, although I did love the recent letter Janelle Burley Hofmann wrote to her 13-year-old son regarding his new cell phone.

Children and cell phones
Photo: “Michal Marcol”

What I’m talking about can be seen in the realm of elementary schools. In the hallways, at recess, walking home and anywhere else these young children can be found….I’m talking about putting the responsibility of a cell phone in the hands of a child.

Get ready folks, I guarantee you that you’re going to have an opinion here and I most certainly want to hear it.

As I look around and see these wee human beings texting, playing games and scouring the internet it strikes me that they may not even be able to properly spell the words they’re Googling let alone pay the bill.

There’s irony in that.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see a child strolling around using up data enjoying the latest apps and yet the adults in their lives probably don’t expect them to be responsible to work the washing machine on a regular basis.

Times have changed and although I’ll go with the flow on many things, I won’t be granting the cell phone wish any time soon.

My eldest daughter just turned 9 years old and the requests (begging) for a smart phone is in full force. At first when this began over a year ago I laughed it off, not able to believe that her peers were actually toting these devices around. Slowly it’s become apparent that it’s not unheard of and in fact in many circles it’s common.

Can Someone Explain Why a Freakin 9 Year Old Needs a Smartphone?

Color me overprotective but my 9-year-old daughter has no need for a smart phone because she’s not left unsupervised long enough for the need to arise. Personally I don’t believe she has reached the age where her safety and judgement are assured without supervision so the only reason I can see for a cell phone would be attributed to a want.

Want, ah yes the proverbial pain in my behind.

These days the wants are loudly proclaimed here, often merging into the need factor. I’ll admit that I often feel the guilty pull to give into demands because “everyone” is getting one but a cell phone?


I’m drawing that line and putting my head in the proverbial sand until the fall out recedes.

Cell Phones Have Risks

Handing over a cell phone equipped with a data/text/phone plan is more than a gift. It’s my opinion that in doing so we’re handing children free access to the world without having us a buffer.

When a child is given the gift of a cell phone we are removing the filter and choosing to rely upon a child’s judgement.

Putting aside the potential costs of purchasing a phone and the monthly bills, we as parents must understand the risks attributed to the phones.

Children these days catch on to technology very quickly and while this is a benefit it also desensitizes them to the potential for harm.

Companies like Telus offer up information and training for parents. While I’m not planning on signing up for another phone in the near future I did check out their Mobile Safety site and here are just a few of the risks they list:

Text /Multi-Media Messaging Risks

  • Texts containing private, personal information could be sent to the wrong address
  • Texts containing personal information could be shared with other users and misused. Once the user sends the text, control is lost
  • A child/adolescent could receive harassing/unwanted texts/IMs, and/or spam text messages which could contain inappropriate material
  • Children/adolescents whose mobile phone does not feature unlimited messaging use could be racking up large bills without a parent’s knowledge. Remember that MMS and information messages would fall outside of “free unlimited” texting offers – you will incur charges for these things

Camera/Video Phone Risks

  • Photos/videos sent to other users can be reproduced, altered, or posted online without the subject’s consent or knowledge
  • Photos/videos can disclose a user’s appearance and location
  • Text messages containing photos or videos could be shared with other users
  • Camera/video phones can be used to photograph or videotape a subject without his/her knowledge
  • Some public facilities have banned camera/video phones—your child/adolescent taking a picture could be considered a crime

Internet/Mobile TV Access Risks

  • Like personal computers, mobile phones with Internet capability are vulnerable to spam, viruses and other malicious content
  • Children/adolescents whose mobile phone does not feature unlimited Internet/TV access could be racking up large bills without a parent’s knowledge
  • Can impact learning at school if restriction aren’t placed upon cell phone use

Global Positioning System (GPS) —”Social Mapping” Risks

Most cell phones come equipped with GPS, which means that users can be located and pinpointed within a few metres, and can tell users where they are located on a map.

For today I can honestly say that the risks associated with my child having a cell phone do NOT outweigh the benefits.

What do you think, what age were your children when you felt they were responsible enough to factor in these risks?

Have you actually done enough research, because frankly until I began researching this post I wasn’t aware of the magnitude. In my case it’s an easy choice, until my girls can line their boots at the door properly the conversation is closed and me thinks that’s a ways off.

This isn’t a sponsored post, nobody has asked me to blog about this and yes I actually have a spare iPhone here……and I’ll proudly look my 9-year-old in the eye and let her know I love her so much that I’m going to allow her to stay a little girl for a while.

I’ll have to learn to handle the fact that I’m not the coolest Mom on the block anymore.

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Children and Cell phones slider

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12 Responses

  1. I so agree with you. My daughter was given a cell phone when she was 11 BUT it was very limited – no texting, no surfing the internet, nothing but phone calls could be made on it AND I gave it to her because she was going to a special school for the arts downtown. She had to take the city bus to and from school and I wanted to be sure she had a way to reach me in case of emergency. It was a pay as you go phone so she couldn’t run up phone bills and she knew it was for emergencies/getting in touch with me only. Fortunately, she honored that. I recently encountered a young boy – about 10 years old who has an iPhone and a Facebook account. The way he talked about “being in a relationship” and other adult things just gave me the heebie jeebies!

  2. I agree, no 9 year NEEDS a cell phone. But what I am most concerned with is the radiation that my little girl is being exposed to every time she touch a cell phone, or iPad or kindle, anything wireless and even me for that matter. She likes to watch books & movies on my iPad, so now I put it on airplane mode and that means no signal, so no radiation! :)

  3. I couldn’t agree more! I have no intention of ever buying my kids a smart phone *currently 10, 11, and 13* Heck I don’t even have a smart phone! I have heard SO MUCH BEGGING over this issue, and I refuse to budge. When my kids start MS, they get a cheap prepaid phone so I can reach them/they can reach me if needed. If that phone survives without issue, I get them a phone on our plan. If they do anything inappropriate with it, they lose it. Due to this, my 11 yr old is the only one with a phone. They can get a smart phone when they can buy it, pay for the monthly plan, and get service in their name. Period.

  4. I totally agree with you. I don’t think young kids have the need for a phone or are responsible enough to have one. I would think maybe 13 would be a good age.. I have a long way to go before thinking about a phone for my daughter, but I am aware of the concerns and safety issues.

  5. THANK YOU for writing this….I was battling this “want” for many years with my now 17 year old son. From the time he was 10, every kid in school had a cell phone, and I was the meanest mom in the world. I finally relented 1/2 way through his sophmore year in high school so I could keep track of his whereabouts better. So it was for my benefit, not his. Even so, he had to work for his phone. I can tell you that my son appreciates what he has mainly because it’s not just handed to him. He feels the pain of losing a phone he had to do millions of chores to get. What a ridiculous battle I’ve had to fight for 6 years. If other parents didn’t give their kids everything they ask for whenever they beg for it, it would sure make my job a lot easier! !! And by the way, your article doesn’t even touch on “sexting” which runs rampant amongst middle school on up….

  6. I agree with you 100% on the cell phone thing and like Good Girl Gone Green whenever our kids use any device, we put it in airplane mode too!

    What age do you think a child is responsible enough to have a cell phone?

    What about ipads/ipods etc.?

    We have an old device we have locked up tighter than a drum that my 4 year old can play games on but cannot access the web or anything at all – it is in airplane mode 110% of the time and his use is VERY monitored.

    My 7 year old has an ipod touch that is 99% of the time in airplane mode AND also has VERY strict measurements in place. Everything is password protected and she can’t get online at all. Her use is also VERY monitored.

  7. My son just started asking for one and he’s 13 years old. I am planning on getting him one for his birthday when he turns 14 but will have strict rules. I feel safer knowing he has one when he’s out a friends house or at basketball. It’s amazing that a lot of people don’t have land lines anymore. He was actually late one night because the stupid dad would not let him use the phone to call home to say so. Yeah last he goes there.

    As for kids playing with the phones. I have no issues with my son using the used iphone or my hubby’s android and he’s six. We have blocks on Youtube, on Google and on Photos. My son has special needs and the apps they have are incredible to help him. However he will not be toting one around to grade two!

  8. I think 9th grade is about right. (Children of single parents who have unpredictable school pickup schedules may need one earlier). Explain all the rules until they roll their eyes, including who pays for what, time limits, night curfews, other details that are important to you. Texting is indispensible, data plan is not.
    There is an additional risk to cellphones and other screens: it’s hard to tear your eyeballs away from them, and said eyeballs are focused at the same distance for long periods. Eyes weren’t made to be used that way. There is research that shows that playing outside, even for one or two hours, significantly reduces the risk of nearsightedness.

  9. I have heard lots of reasons for kids to have cell phones, because so many homes do not have land lines anymore. In divorced families, for example, cell phones allow the parents to keep in touch with their kids when they are with the other parent.

    I got my kids cell phones when they started driving… we had a land line they could use otherwise. Times just keep changing!

  10. Bang on! while my son is only 4 right now I really really don’t plan on giving him a cell phone until late high school… university if I can swing it lol. We live in a small town so I don’t see him going out all the time, and if he did need one, I’d lend him mine to use for the time being. Back in the day payphone cards were the thing (I still have mine), so a pager and a payphone card were all I needed. It’s scary how the times are changing, especially when it comes to raising kids. Too much outside influence not enough home grown influence :) I’m going to be starting my son on the chore regime to earn his money, nothing too nuts but starting off small.

  11. Like everyone else, I too agree that these children do not need cellphones. Most of us have computers at home that they can surf the internet on and at 9,10 or 11 years old (and it can be monitored). Where are they going to be at that age that they need to access the internet on a phone? I do not care that their friends may have them. I do like the idea of a pay as you go phone for safety reasons though (like the girl that takes the bus to and from school). A phone that is used for emergencies only and that is kept out of sight. I was speaking to a police officer once about the safety of my children walking to school and he replied that the majority of time that kids are harrassed or hurt by other (usually older) kids or adults is because they want to take their smart phone. Why would I ever invite this harm on my kids in addition to all of the other potential dangers of kids using cell phones? Call me old-fashioned, but kids get joy out of walking to and from school without being glued to the newest “app”. And when they are in school they should be learning…..not texting.

  12. What bothers me the most about giving a child a cellphone is the radiation. I recently saw a study showing the absorption rate of cell phone radiation on the brains of a baby vs. a child vs an adult and I think if other parents saw THAT they would be frightened! Babies have NO protection against it and children aren’t much better off. Here is some info on it:

    BTW… my 1 year old has TWO cell phones. One rattles and the other plays songs. Those are the only cell phones she will be allowed to have until she can pay her own cell phone bill.

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